Day 1

With an array of talent, old and new, the Paris Grand Slam 2018 is set to showcase some of the best action on the IJF tour. This notorious tournament takes place in the Bercy district with an exhilarating home crowd, an amazing experience for avid judo fans and new spectators alike. Day one starts with the lighter of the weight categories taking to the stage.

Returning to Paris in the -60kg category we have SHISHIME Toru (JPN), Paris Grand Slam gold medallist in 2016, most recently competing in the Tokyo Grand Slam 2017 picking up a bronze. SHISHIME will be looking to step higher on the rostrum, however he must get past last years’ silver and bronze medallists, Sharafuddin LUTFILLAEV (UZB) and Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO).

PAPINASHVILI will be leading a strong Georgian team in this tournament as we see Vazha MARGVELASHVILI competing in the -66kg. The world medallist will certainly have a tough day ahead of him battling against strong players including Tal FLICKER (ISR) currently world ranked number two. 2017 European Champion Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) will also be looking to take his first title of 2018 in this extensive category, potentially facing AN Baul (KOR). This could be an opportunity to even the score as AN continued to the semi-final in the Tokyo Grand Slam in December, beating ZANTARAIA in the preliminary rounds. 

After his 2017 debut in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, Olympic Champion Fabio BASILE (ITA) will be continuing his mission in the -73kg in the AccorHotels Arena in Bercy Village. CHAINE Guillaume and DUPRAT Pierre both of France will be appearing on the opening day in Paris to a legendary home crowd. AN Changrim (KOR), Paris Grand Slam 2017 silver medallist will be looking to improve on last years’ performance to take home the gold, perhaps in the absence of gold medal winner HASHIMOTO Soichi (JPN), he will have the edge. Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO) is the first seeded player of the -73kg but lost to AN in golden score, narrowly missing out on the bronze medal in the World Championships last year.

There is no escaping the calibre of talent in the -48kg category this year. Urantsetseg MUNKHBAT (MGL) has a wealth of experience and titles under her belt including first female from Mongolia to win a world championship. TONAKI Funa (JPN) will be one to beat as 2017 world champion and first placed at the IJF world masters in St Petersburg.

Young blood is proving itself in the -48kg, Noa MINSKER (ISR), a bronze medallist at the 2017 European Championships and Melanie CLEMENT (FRA) has taken to the grand prix rostrum multiple times in past twelve months. 

Daria BILODID (UKR) is certainly on the radar as a strong contender, at only seventeen years old she has consistently performed throughout cadet, junior and now swiftly in to senior level competition. Most notably to date winning the European Senior Championships in 2017 seeing out CSERNOVICZKI Eva (HUN) and Irina DOLGOVA (RUS) for the gold medal. CSERNOVICZKI, a 2016 medallist at this tournament will be returning in an attempt to raise her flag once again.

The -52kg category will be equally exciting, Amandine BUCHARD (FRA) has frequented the grand prix and grand slam rostrums in 2017 and Astride GNETO (FRA) will be looking to take home a medal after a fifth place in Paris last year. Returning to the stage we have world silver medallist TSUNODA Natsumi (JPN), also gaining a silver in this tournament last year. Completing the 2017 rostrum was Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) with her bronze, this top-class performer has a junior world champion title as well as winning the Hague Grand Prix and placing fifth in December’s IJF World Masters in St Petersburg.

Athletes fighting for gold in the -57kg include three of our medallists from the World Championships in Budapest. Starting us off is bronze medallist Nekoda SMYTHE-DAVIS (GBR), the same result achieved in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, but able to better herself in the Zagreb Grand Prix, taking away a silver. Taking away SMYTHE-DAVIS’ chance of gold at the worlds was Helene RECEVEAUX (FRA), a strong contender on her home soil with equally strong triumphs last year; Paris Grand Slam silver and European Championship bronze. Our third world medallist, YOSHIDA Tsukasa (JPN) fought dynamically for a silver in Hungary, continuing her impressive performances in the IJF Masters with the same result and a Tokyo Grand Slam gold.

Day 1’s final women’s weight category is the -63kg. The top three world ranked players will be battling for gold this year including; Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO), Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) and TASHIRO Miku (JPN). Between these judoka are a plethora of battles, constantly seeking to better one other; most notably the Olympic Games and World Championships; TRSTENJAK beating AGBEGNENOU in the final in Rio De Janeiro, then vice versa last year in Budapest. Similarly, in the Paris Grand Slam 2017, AGBEGNENOU had to accept defeat in the final, however this could be her chance to even the score and bring it home to France. Other players to watch in this weight group are; Abu Dhabi Grand Slam silver medallist Lucy RENSHALL (GBR), Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist, WATANABE Kiyomi (PHI) and Martyna TRAJDOS (GER), Ekaterinburg gold medallist.

Day 2

The lighter of the male categories on day 2 sees the -81kg take to the tatami. Last year’s Paris winner, Frank DE WIT (NED) will undoubtedly intend to astound us with his dynamic techniques and passionate judo once again. Coming for the title however, will be the Paris silver medallist Zebeda REKHVIASHVILI (GEO) who picked up a bronze in the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam.

Boasting a star-studded category is the men’s -90kg, twenty-one-year-old world champion, Nemanja MAJDOV (SRB) is first up after having made a huge impact in 2017 with his gold medal in Budapest. World bronze medallists, Ushangi MARGIANI (GEO) – Tokyo Grand Slam bronze - and GWAK DongHan (KOR), IJF Masters silver medallist will also be ones to watch. 

Georgia have a lot of talent in this division with Beka GVINIASHVILI also in the ranks, defeating GWAK in the IJF Masters last month to take the gold, as well as a Grand Prix gold in Dusseldorf and European bronze. Axel CLERGET (FRA) picked up the silver at the European Championships along with second place in Paris, can the Frenchman take the gold this year? Nikoloz SHERAZADASHVILI (ESP) could be a serious contender, taking bronze at the IJF Masters and defeating GVINIASHVILI in Abu Dhabi to claim the gold.

The standard certainly carries through to the -100kg category with the three-time Paris Grand Slam gold, European silver and Olympic bronze medallist, Cyrille MARET (FRA). Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) never fails to impress, achievements including world and Olympic silver medals, a third place in Paris last year and taking home the gold from the St Petersburg IJF Masters. The silver in St Petersburg went to Michael KORREL (NED) who blazed his way to a Grand Slam gold in Baku and a well-deserved silver in Tokyo. Unfortunately for Toma NIKIFOROV (BEL), he walked away from the Tokyo Grand Slam with a bronze, nevertheless proving his explosive talents in Dusseldorf earlier in the year, taking home the gold.

Finally the +100kg will be as anticipated as ever, Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) has been making a comeback after suffering an injury earlier in the year, proving himself a champion with a silver in the Tokyo Grand Slam. Maciej SARNACKI (POL) will be one to watch, narrowly missing out on medals on multiple occasions last year but picking up a silver in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, losing to MARET in the final round. After a nail biting experience at the World Championships against Teddy RINER (FRA), Guram TUSHISHVILI (GEO) has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue this year. TUSHISHVILI has a string of cadet and junior titles to boast, and as a senior in 2017 has claimed the European individual and team title, took gold in the Baku Grand Slam and most recently in the IJF Masters.

First of the female weight categories on day two is the -70kg. ARAI Chizuru (JPN) has without question dominated this division in 2017, highest achievements being the World Individual and Team Championships in Budapest. Only succumbing to ONO Yoko (JPN) in the Tokyo Grand Slam to take silver. Marie Eva GAHIE (FRA) is a French favourite, her strength achieving a European bronze medal and seeing out Olympian, Sally CONWAY (GBR) in the European Open in Bucharest taking gold. The judoka narrowly missed out on bronze medals in both St Petersburg and the World Championships. European champion Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED) steadily improved on her performances, winning gold in the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam after a bronze in Paris and silver in The Hague Grand Prix, gold going to fellow Dutch competitor Kim POLLING.

Olympic silver medallist Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) will be attracting the attention of the crowd, a fierce athlete who dominated the -78kg in 2017, taking gold in both the Paris Grand Slam and European Championships. A similarly successful contender is Guusje STEENHUIS (NED), gold medallist of The Hague Grand Prix and IJF Masters, taking the bronze in Paris 2017 and losing to TCHEUMEO in the final of the European Championship.  World bronze medallist Natalie POWELL (GBR) will be making an appearance after a successful tour, a bronze at the European Championships and a gold at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Anna-Maria WAGNER (GER) is a young force to be reckoned with, a celebrated U21 and U23 european champion, also picking up a bronze in the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam. 

The concluding category is the women’s +78kg. KIM MinJeong (KOR) comes in strong in 2018 with a World Championship bronze, as well as third place in both Paris and Tokyo Grand Slams. KIM finished up the year taking the gold in the IJF Masters. Contesting KIM is Tessie SAVELKOULS (NED), gold medallist in The Hague Grand Prix and Baku Grand Slam.

By Thea Cowen 




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