Nathon Burns has confirmed himself as a prime candidate for an Irish medal at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, following an impressive run to the quarter-finals at the European Games in Minsk.
The 30-year-old English-based judoka from Camberley Judo Club won two bouts in the opening rounds of the 66kg half-lightweight division.
Having received a first-round bye, Burns dispatched Portugal’s Joao Crisostomo with an ippon three- minutes-seven-seconds into their last-32 contest at the Chizhovka Arena.
Burns’ next outing didn’t contain the same early-ending drama, but still resulted in a useful victory over Belgian Kenneth van Gansbeke via a wasa-ari and shido, to van Gansbeke’s lone shido.
The Irishman came a cropper though in the quarter-finals, as Italian Matteo Medves turned over Burns with a bout-ending ippon right at the end.
In the placement matches, the same thing happened against Pavel Petrikov of the Czech Republic, leaving Burns seventh overall.
“It’s a place secured in a major event,” Burns said.
“It’s certainly something really good to build on from this last year, particularly as I injured my ribs so was out for five months.
“As frustrating as it was and I expected so much more from today, especially how it started.
After I wipe my face a little bit and think about the big picture, I can take a lot from today and really move forward with it, and get some big points for next year.
Alice Sharpe came home 25 th among the main bunch in the women’s cycling road race – the peloton just 11 seconds behind a Dutch-dominated sprint.
20-year-old Lorena Wiebes scored a sensational win by crossing first in the 120km event ahead of team-mate and 2012 Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos, with bronze going to home Belarussian rider Tatsiana Sharakova – all with the same time of three hours, eight minutes, thirteen seconds.
Defending champion Alena Amialiusik was 15 th , recording the same mark.
An early three-rider breakaway consisting of Israel’s Omer Shapira, Hanna Tserakh of Belarus and Germany’s Hannah Ludwig at one stage opened up a lead of almost three-and-a-half minutes on the tight and technical 15km loop across Minsk city centre, but were eventually gobbled up due to strong Dutch teamwork.
Sharpe’s final time was 3:08:24, and commented afterwards: “It was good – a bit of a weird race really, I thought it would split up a bit more and go harder from the start, but it was a bit ‘stop- starty’, with three up the road with a two-minute gap at one point.
“They left it late to bring it back, but then they did it in a lap in the end. The Dutch were driving it at the front, I sat in and waited for the finish.
“It was a bit more like a kermesse or a criterium – if anyone made an attack it was neutralised by the fact there was a corner, and then the bunch were able to kick hard for the corners. It was interesting though.”
Both Irish boxers won their opening round bouts to qualify for the last 16 of their respective competitions.
Michael Nevin beat Briton Mark Dickinson 3-2 on the judges’ cards at middleweight (75kg), while at 69kg, welterweight Kieran Molloy dispatched Macedonian Goce Janeski on a unanimous points decision where every judge awarded Molloy every round.
Speaking afterwards, Nevin stated: “I’m feeling good, I had a slow start coming into the first round, but in the second one, I came back strong.
“It was a tough fight, I just kept listening to the coach though and our tactics worked. It's on to the next one now.”
Molloy’s somewhat-similar take was: “I feel great after that.
It’s great to get the first one out of the way and with a good performance as well, so I’m looking forward to the next one.
“We’ve had great preparation for this, we’ve a great team behind us and that team is confident.”
21-year-old Molloy will now face home fighter Yauheni Dauhaliavets in the last 16 following a first- round stoppage over Israel’s Miroslav Kapuler.
Following his close call, former European schoolboy, youth and junior champion Nevin will take on world and Olympic bronze-medallist Kamran Shakhsuvarly of Azerbaijan in the round-of-16, following a 4-1 points victory over Giorgi Kharabadze of Georgia.
Aoife Gormally and Derek Burnett lie 23rd and 25th respecitively following the first day of their Shotgun Trap qualification.
Gormally lies on 60 points in the women's competition, with four-time Olympian Burnett scoring 65 following his first day of action.
The qualifications run across five rounds, and two days.
Ireland's athletics team enter the fray tomorrow, competing against Belarus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in the first-round of the inaugural Dynamic New Athletics competition specially-created by European Athletics for the European Games.
The top team in the six-way contest automatically qualifies for Wednesday's semi-finals, with the rest going into a series of repechage quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The best three performers in each of the eight traditional events across the 24 competing nations tomorrow will receive individual medals, but the team prizes will not be determined until Friday.