Milad Beigi-Harchegani celebrated under 80kg gold for Azerbaijan at Baku 2015

Iranian-born Milad Beigi-Harchegani produced a superb exhibition of modern taekwondo to dominate the under 80 kilograms competition today at the European Games in yet another moment to treasure for a raucous and partisan home crowd here which filled virtually every seat.

There is no doubt that it is combat sports which have best captured the imagination here at these Games and, like in wrestling and karate, home medal success has added to the spectacle, as every Azerbaijani kick, punch and spin was cheered fanatically by a home crowd desperate for national glory.

Beiji-Harchegani, born and raised in the Iranian city of Esfahan and winning gold for Iran as recently as at last year's World Military Games, switched nationality from the neigbouring country earlier this year seemingly in time to compete here, and considers "becoming a member of Azerbaijan national taekwondo team" his best career achievement.

But, at exactly two metres tall, his lanky demeanour and languid, defensive-minded style was quintessentially Iranian, drawing comparisons with Iran's Mehdi Khodabakhshi who won gold in this event at last month's World Championships in Chelyabinsk.

The 24-year-old was never tested in the early rounds, cruising past Britain's Olympic bronze medalist Lutalo Muhammad and Portugal's Julio Ferreira to set up a final with second seeded Russian Albert Gaun.

With the modern electronic scoring system and style favouring precision and discipline over explosive aggression, both fighters were cautious, unwilling to over-commit in attack lest they were caught out in defense and instead content to prod, probe and counter at distance.

Yet in Beigi-Harcehgani, Gaun had simply met a stronger exponent of the tactic, as the adopted Azerbaijani opened up a lead in the opening stages and never relented, eventually prevailing by a 9-4 margin.

Anastasiia Baryshnikova of Russia ensured there was no Azerbaijani clean sweep ©Getty Images
Anastasiia Baryshnikova of Russia ensured there was no Azerbaijani clean sweep ©Getty Images

Both Ferreira and Muhammad ended up with bronze medals, with the former having edged Moldova's world number one Aaron Cook, the former Briton who many had hoped would face Muhammad in the semi-finals, at the last eight stage, 

Azerbaijan and Russia's gold medal match monopoly continued in the earlier women's under 67kg competition, where the final was a much closer affair in which Anastasiia Baryshnikova provided a rare moment of home disappointment by edging out Farida Azizova by the narrowest of 6-5 margins.

She demonstrated the value of accruing a lead and not relenting as she always managed to stay one or two points ahead,

Sweden's Elin Johansson and Turkey's Nur Tatar were the two bronze medal winners. 

The heaviest two divisions take to the mat tomorrow, with those competing including Britain's heavyweight Bianca Walden, named best female of the tournament after winning World Championships gold last month.

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