Gemma Howell achieved a series of tough victories en route to gold at the European Judo Championships ©Getty Images

Unseeded Gemma Howell dominated the women’s under-63 kilograms division at the European Judo Championships to claim Britain’s second gold medal of the event in Sofia.

Howell defeated Andreja Leški of Slovenia, who won the World Championship silver medal last year, The Netherlands’ Geke van den Berg and Hungary’s European under-23 champion Szofi Özbas to reach the final.

Facing Kosovo’s Laura Fazliu, Howell quickly established dominance, picking up a waza-ari within 30 seconds.

The victory was confirmed once Howell registered a second waza-ari to secure her first major title at the age of 31.

"I always knew it was a tough draw and I was in for a hard day, but I just took it one fight at a time, just like any other competition," Howell, who in 2018 won a continental bronze medal at under-70kg, said.

"I went into each contest with a game plan and I am so happy that all the hard work has paid off."

Özbas recovered from her loss to take bronze against Czech Renata Zachová, while Israel’s Gili Sharir defeated Cristina Cabana Perez of Spain for the other bronze.

In the other women’s division contested today, France’s Marie-Eve Gahié took down defending champion Sanne Van Dijke of The Netherlands to win under-70kg gold via ippon.

This is the former world champion’s first European gold medal.

Tato Grigalashvili is European champion for the second time ©Getty Images
Tato Grigalashvili is European champion for the second time ©Getty Images

Slovenia’s Anka Pogačnik and France’s Margaux Pinot picked up bronzes for their wins against Hilde Jager of The Netherlands and Michaela Polleres of Austria, respectively.

Azerbaijan’s Hidayet Heydarov reclaimed his European men's under-73kg title, beating Italy’s Giovanni Esposito with a waza-ari in the final.

Compatriot Rustam Orujov and Bulgaria’s Mark Hristov acquired the bronze medals for the division.

The second day at Armeets Arena was rounded off with Georgia’s Tato Grigalashvili securing the men’s under-81kg title in a bout against Belgium’s Matthias Casse, a Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist.

Following three minutes of play, Grigalashvili became European champion after deploying a morote seoi nage to score a waza-ari as Casse received a third shido.

Hungary’s Attila Ungvári and Belgium’s Sami Chouchi were the winners of the bronze medals after they both defeated Ukrainian opposition.

Ungvari got the better of Hievorh Manukian and Chouchi secured victory over Sergii Krivchach.

The European Judo Championships are due to conclude tomorrow.