BATTLE OF THE HEAVYWEIGHTS IN CHINA

Guangzhou Masters Preview 2018

The second and final day of competition will see the remaining weight categories competing for the Masters title. 

Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA) heads the -70kg category as she sits at #2 in the world ranking, the French woman taking a silver in the World Championships earlier this year. Anna BERNHOLM (SWE) most recently took a silver medal in the notoriously difficult Grand Slam in Osaka, losing out only to the 2018 World Champion, ARAI Chizuru (JPN). Both European athletes took bronze medals in this event in 2017 but have made giant steps over the past year, dominating the -70kg category and it wouldn’t be a surprise if either made it in to the gold medal contest. 

The strength of the Dutch women is unavoidable in the -78kg category. All three athletes that are entered for this years tournament medalled last year, taking a gold and two bronze. World silver medallist, Guusje STEENHUIS, takes the lead as the #1 seed in this tournament followed by the 2017 Masters Champion and World bronze medallist, Marhinde VERKERK. The third and final Dutch athlete is the youngest of the team, Karen STEVENSON. Interestingly, the Dutch women have proved in multiple weight categories this year, that they have an abundance of world tour experience which is allowing them to dominate. Will we be standing for the national anthem of the Netherlands again in 2018? 

A podium regular, Larisa CERIC (BIH) is the highest seeded European athlete in this years Masters tournament in the +78kg category, boasting a bronze medal this time last year. Undoubtedly, after a successful IJF tour in 2018, World bronze medallist, CERIC, will be looking to go one better and secure a place in the final of the +78kg category on the final day of competition. Tashkent Grand Prix Champion, Iryna KINDZERSKA (AZE) has improved on her results this year, putting in strong performances in her Grand Slam appearances. If CERIC and KINDZERSKA end up in a final contest it will most definitely be one to watch as the pair are equal in their head-to-heads. 

Day one sees the Georgian men dominant in their respective weight classes but the Russian team come in strong in the heavier categories, especially in -81kg. 

Olympic Champion, Khasan KHALMURZAEV, leads his team in the middle weight men’s category. KHALMURZAEV had many successes in his home country in 2017, taking the gold in the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam as well as the Masters title which was hosted in St Petersburg. Though he has been slightly more absent on the tour this year he will be looking to keep his Masters title. The Budapest Grand Prix Champion and last years bronze medallist, Alan KHUBETSOV will try to raise the Russian flag on day two and take the title from his team mate but will be closely followed by Aslan LAPPINAGOV. Both Russian men are 25 years of age and have equal success on the IJF circuit, LAPPINAGOV however, pipped KHUBETSOV in St Petersburg last year for a place in the final and an eventual silver medal.

The Hague Grand Prix final was much anticipated with the world #1 and #2 coming head to head. Though Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) leads in statistics, in the Masters event last year, World Champion, Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) came out on top in the bronze medal contest. The calibre of the -90kg category is immense, there is potential for another final with these two athletes. There are many young athletes finding their place in the -90kg category, present in Guangzhou will be European Champion, Mikhail IGOLNIKOV (RUS) and Eduard TRIPPEL (GER), picking up two Grand Slam bronze medals in Osaka and Paris in 2018. 

Legend, Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) leads the -100kg category in Guangzhou, with a stream of strong athletes behind him. Michael KORREL (NED) follows closely as the #2 seed, both of these athletes reaching the gold medal contest last year in St Petersburg, KORREL will be looking to change the record against the experienced Georgian athlete and take first place. European bronze medallist Peter PALTCHIK (ISR) is currently on a winning streak that threatens to change the dynamic of this weight category, taking the gold medal in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and The Hague Grand Prix. 

The heavy weight category is rapidly gaining momentum with the increased presence of -100kg athletes moving up in to the open weight. The +100kg World Champion, Georgian Guram TUSHISHVILI naturally leads the pack as #1 and will seek to remain on top following his success this year and keep his Master title. The hugely anticipated contest will be between the -100kg Olympic, World and European Champion, Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) and -100kg European Champion, World silver medallist, Henk GROL (NED). GROL lost out to KRPALEK in both the European and World Championships this year but recently ended his streak of defeats in the final of the Osaka Grand Slam, taking the gold medal. 

By Thea Cowen

Events


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