2009/06/01 | 12:32 am | in IJF
Time travel in MoscowReport from the IJF GRAND SLAM
The cozy Druzhba sporthall made the 325 athletes from 39 countries experience a “time travel” for the IJF Moscow Grand Slam. The arena, especially built to host the judo competition during the Olympic Games 1980, received this time a whole generation of judoka dreaming (and fighting hard!) to qualify for the next Games in London 2012. Japan presented a different team that the one at the IJF Tunis Grand Prix, two weeks ago, but even so dominate the lighter female categories of the first day of competition as they did in Tunisia, winning the -48kg (Tomoko Fukumi), -52kg (Misato Nakamura) and -57kg (Kaori Matsumoto). French Marielle Pruvost was the only one able to defeat a Japanese judoka in the final, beating Yoshie Ueno to win her gold (-63kg). Among the men divisions, Armenia, Korea and Mongolia got one victory each: Hovhannes Davtyan (ARM, -60kg), Tsangaanbaatar Khashbaatar (MGL, -66kg) and Ki-Chun Wang (KOR, -73kg). On Sunday, second day of competition, Russia won its first gold with experienced Alexander Mikhaylin (+100kg). Korea took the lead of the male table with world champion 2003 Hee-Tae Hwang claiming gold in the -100kg in his come back to judo. Siarhei Shundzikau (BLR) won the -81kg and Takashi Ono (JPN) was crowned champion in the -81kg category. Japan won two more female medals with Yoriko Kunihara (-70kg) and Athens Olympic champion Maki Tsukada (+78kg). Chinese Xiuli Yang was number one at the -78kg division.
“The Russian fighters become even stronger when they fight in Russia and that is one of the things that make this competition so difficult”, comments Wang, runner up at the Beijing Olympic Games and winner of the two IJF Grand Slam of the year (Paris and now Moscow).
Also to highlight are the performances of Hungary (four medals out of seven categories in the first day of competition in Moscow plus one in the second day) and of two “new faces” who showed up strong in the last Tunis Grand Prix: Spanish Sugoi Uriarte (-66kg, winner in Tunisia) and Tunisian Chahinez M Barki (-48kg, silver in Tunsia).
“Since Anis Lounifi, world champion in 2001 (-60kg), came to be the coach of the Tunisian team, lots of things have changed. The most important one I think is that started believing more that we can win, once we are in constant contact with someone who has arrived there on the top of the podium”, says Chahinez, who was accompanied on the podium this time by Nihel Chickhrouhou (silver, +78kg).
“It is the first season that I really have the opportunity to compete abroad as part of the Spanish team. Until the lasts seasons number one was Javier Delgado and I got finally the position after winning the Tunis Grand Prix while he didn´t get anything there. My goal for the World Championships will be to do as many fights as possible. It is the first Worlds of the new Olympic cycle and result is not the most important part of it, although, of course, it is always nice to be around the podium. Everything has been going well so far”, says Uriarte, 25 years old, bronze in the U-23 European Championships 26 and silver in the Universíade Bangkok 2007.
Portuguese Telma Monteiro proofed once again that she took the right decision when moved from -52kg (where she had World Championships medals) to the -57kg division after Beijing 2008.
“To be honest, I didn´t expect to have such good results so quick when I decided to go up one category. I don´t feel I am at 100% of my potential both in terms of physic strength and adaptation at the new category. I still feel I am very light comparing to the other girls. I hope I will be at my best for the World Championships. Until there I will make as many tournaments as possible to get to know better my opponents”, says Monteiro.
Takashi Ono (JPN), bronze in the World Championships 2003, also is experiencing a smooth change of category. Until last season he was competing in the -81kg. Now he gained nine more kilos.
“It was the right decision. I am enjoying judo more now. To compete in the -81kg I had to do great effort to maintain weight”, said Ono, who was expecting to meet one special opponent in the final: Brazilian Tiago Camilo, who also went from -81kg to -90kg this year but was defeated in the semifinal and ended with bronze. “He beat me in the Olympics last year and I wish I could fight him again now in the higher category”, completed Ono.
The Brazilian team, who showed up complete for the first time this year, won two medals with 2007 world champions Camilo (-90kg, bronze) and Luciano Correa (-100kg, silver).
“Of course I wanted to be in the final. But maybe if I was there a gold or silver medal so quick could hide my weaknesses. I know I still have a long way to go to get really used to the new category. I think I am in the right way”, comments Camilo.
[Manoela Penna, IJF Media Director]