3 December 2023


Tokyo Grand Slam 2023


It was a day of the Abe’s on the second day of the Tokyo Grand Slam 2023. For this event, it wasn’t the typical order for the weight categories, seeing only six yesterday, and today spectating the -48kg, -52kg, -63kg, -78kg, -60kg, -66kg, -100kg and +100kg categories, nevertheless, it meant plenty of entertainment for the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and the fans at home.

In the lightest of the women’s categories, Julia FIGUEROA (ESP) has had a tough run as of recent, recovering from injuries as well as dealing with strong national competition but she was on top form today, defeating European silver medallist, Catarina COSTA (POR) for a place in the final against current world champion, TSUNODA Natsumi (JPN). Despite Figeuroa having a 1-0 lead in the head to head against Tsunoda, the Japanese athlete quickly made it 1-1, transitioning in to ne waza and applying juju gatame for the -48kg gold medal.

Julia FIGEUROA (ESP) © Thea Cowen

ABE Uta (JPN) was first to take her place in the final, defeating Gefen PRIMO (ISR) with an uchi mata and immediate transition to osaekomi. Ensuring a European athlete in the final, Astride GNETO (FRA) defeated PUPP Reka (HUN) in the semi final win the other half of the draw. It was less than a minute of contest time in the final of the -52kg category, Abe continuing her successful streak with a clean ko uchi gari to secure the ippon.

Uta’s brother, ABE Hifumi took his place in the final of the -66kg category, defeating BATTOGTOKH Erkhmbayar (MGL), and though one half of the Mongolian entry didn’t succeed on this occasion, YONDONPERENLEI Baskhuu would be next to take on Abe for the gold. Abe continued the winning story for the siblings, a double sleeved o soto gari scoring ippon against Yondonperenlei.

Current world champion Inbar LANIR (ISR) first defeated the current Olympic champion, HAMADA Shori (JPN) before moving past TAKAYAMA Rika (JPN) for a place in the -78kg final. Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) has lost nothing as it seems, the three-time world champion and three-time Olympic medallist defeated UMEKI Mami (JPN) in only eight seconds for her final place. The Brazilian athlete continued in the same fashion, scoring early in the final against Lanir which was in the end, enough for the win. Aguiar took a Tokyo Grand Slam bronze in 2011 and has proven her consistency and longevity today with the title win.

In the -100kg category, Gennaro PIRELLI (ITA) was the only non-Japanese athlete to take gold in 2022, and he continued in his quest, once again defeating the current Olympic champion WOLF Aaron (JPN) for his place in the semi final against Japan’s rising star, 18 year-old ARAI Dota. Pirelli was unable to defend a spinning uchi mata after only 42 seconds, sending Arai in to the final against Matvey KANIKOVSKIY (AIN) who defeated BATKHUYAG Gonchigsuren (MGL) with a deep ko uchi gake. Given the performance of Arai today, assumptions were made that it would have been a more exciting final but a quick yoko tomoe nage from Kanikovskiy was a devastating blow for Arai.

In the heavyweight men’s category, KIM Minjong (KOR) defeated the home favourite, SAITO Tatsuro for a place against Tamerlan BASHAEV (AIN) in the +100kg category. Following some back and forth between the two, an uchi mata attempt from Kim was countered by Bashaev with lightning speed sumi otoshi for the ippon win to conclude the day.

There were two all-Japan finals, with current -60kg Olympic champion, TAKATO Naohisa suffering defeat at the hands of the #3 seed, NAGAYAMA Ryuju in golden score. TAKAICHI Miku defeated YAMAGUCHI Kirari in the -63kg golden score, the latter was a pleasant surprise in this category, but in the end, seniority won out with the win awarded to Takaichi.

In 2022, Japan stole 13 of the 14 available gold medals, but this year they managed to secure only 6, the competition really came hard from the rest of the world in the concluding IJF World Judo Tour event in Tokyo. Now it may be over for the IJF team, however there are still two events still in play with European Judo. First up, the European Club Championships in Belgrade next week.


Author: Thea Cowen