14 February 2024


Baku Grand Slam 2024


There are three WRL number ones competing in the Baku Grand Slam between the 16th and 18th of February; Christa DEGUCHI (CAN), Romane DICKO (FRA) and Catherine BEAUCHEMIN-PINARD (CAN). Interestingly, Jessica KLIMKAIT of Canada who is one position behind Deguchi is not following the movement of the team and won’t be competing either this weekend or in Tashkent, but is registered for the Tbilisi Grand Slam in March.

In the -48kg category, we see that Serbian duo Milica NIKOLIC and Andrea STOJADINOV are both still in the running, but with a ten-position gap now separating them. Abiba ABUZHAKYNOVA (KAZ) has already acquired a medal this year, a bronze in the Portugal Grand Prix as a warm up, but her position as #2 seed is promising. Aside from the attractive list of competitors, you could easily be drawn to the three ALIYEVA’s of Azerbaijan. The highest ranked at #20 is Leyla, who took silver in this event last year as well as a bronze in Abu Dhabi and is the most senior of the trio. Konul comes in next, with achievements both in EYOF and the U23 European Championships in 2022, and is then followed by Ramila, the now 23 year-old took the U23 silver like her team mate but in the year before.

There are a whole host of top names competing in the -52kg category, but in at #245 is an athlete with serious grit and determination, after an exhausting golden score bout, Khadizha GADASHOVA (AZE) took the Cadet World title last year in Zagreb. This will be her debut on the IJF World Tour and she could be a strong surprise. There are still those looking to qualify including Ana Victorija PULJIZ (CRO) and Sofia ASVESTA (CYP), and those in safe spots like top two seeds; Diyora KELDIYOROVA (UZB) and Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA). Then finally, those still in national conflicts; Larissa PIMENTA and Jessica PEREIRA (BRA), Estrella LOPEZ SHERIFF and recent Paris Grand Slam medallist, Ariane TORO SOLER (ESP).

Deguchi may not have to consider her team mate a threat this week, but she is still under tremendous pressure with the likes of -57kg Olympic finalists, Sarah LEONIE CYSIQUE (FRA) and Nora GJAKOVA (KOS) on her tail. Filling in the remaining seeded positions is an arsenal; Eteri LIPARTELIANI (GEO) who decimated her opponents for the European Open Championships title, Timna NELSON LEVY (ISR), Marica PERISIC (SRB), Jessica LIMA (BRA) and finally Daria BILODID (UKR). The latter has been out of action since the Zagreb Grand Prix in August, even surprisingly missing the Paris Grand Slam, however arrived for the training camp. Acelya TOPRAK and Fidan ALIZADA will be turning up for the home team, the latter still young, notably taking the EYOF and Cadet European title in 2022.

Fidan ALIZADA (AZE) © Carlos Ferreira

The second category to be led by the Canadians is the -63kg category, Beauchemin-Pinard had a surprising first round exit to the Junior World Champion, Melkia AUCHECORNE (FRA) in Paris, but will be prepared for the unknown this week, as there are some potential dangers further down the ranking. At the top however are some heavy hitters; WRL #2 Laura FAZLIU (KOS), Israeli duo Gili SHARIR and Inbal SHEMESH, world bronze medallists OZBAS Szofi (HUN) and Joanne VAN LIESHOUT (NED). There is also still an ongoing battle in the Austrian ranks with Lubjana PIOVESANA and Magdalena KRSSAKOVA.

As it was for Beauchemin-Pinard, Elisavet TELTSIDOU (GRE) had a surprising early exit in the Paris Grand Slam to the eventual -70kg fifth placer, Tais PINA (POR), but will prepared this week. She must be with high level opponents she could face including double World Champion, Barbara MATIC (CRO), Olympic medallist, Michaela POLLERES (AUT), former World and current European Champion Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA) as well as Maya GOSHEN (ISR) and Kim POLLING (NED) who is climbing up the ranking. Notably, we’re still missing the WRL #1 Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED) from the -70kg line up.

Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) looked on top form in Paris, defeating Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) and taking home the bronze in the -78kg category and she will lead in the seeding in Baku. She will face a number of younger opponents however, including Yelyzaveta LYTVYNENKO (UKR), Yuliia KURCHENKO (UKR) and Anna MONTA OLEK (GER). Loriana KUKA (KOS) entered this new weight category and is still looking for the big win, this could be a great opportunity for the athlete sitting at #33 in the WRL.

Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) © Gabi Juan

Dicko is established as the Olympic representative for the host nation of France, and following a win in Paris, she is on to the next one, but also missing many of her top opponents, with the closest being Milica ZABIC (SRB) at #13 in the WRL. However we will see the likes of World and Olympic Champion Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) competing in the +78kg category. The competition continues within the Dutch team between #17 and #18, Marit KAMPS and Karen STEVENSON, who are both in top eight seeded positions in Baku.


Author: Thea Cowen