On the minds of many, are Paris Olympic Games qualifications, especially today with so many close rivalries, whether it be in France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Türkiye, Netherlands or Great Britain.
As far as home conception goes, the -78kg women were drawing great attention, especially between Madeleine MALONGA and Audrey TCHEUMEO who found themselves in the repechage with one another, the latter losing on shido, and seemingly no love lost between the pair.
Then the semi finals, Anna-Maria WAGNER had made it past the quarter final against Alina BOEHM (GER) which may have relieved a little stress, but now she had surprise semi finalist, Darya KANTSAVAYA (AIN). The initial score came from Wagner’s o goshi and then later in the contest, a timely o soto gaeshi to secure he place in the final.
Top seed Alice BELLANDI (ITA) scored first with seoi toshi against Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) and then followed up with a seoi nage. It has been a tough road for Bellandi today, after an aggressive quarter against Malonga, however she has been on top form as of recent, or at least one of the leaders of the category and continued to the Paris Grand Slam final with Wagner. Aside from the European Championships semi final, Wagner has the lead in wins.
Continuing with the women, the home crowd could already celebrate a medal given that we had an all-French semi final between Romane DICKO and Lea FONTAINE. It was a pretty straight forward contest for the French women, with Fontaine acquiring three shidos and Dicko heading to the final. On the other half of the draw, top seed Raz HERSHKO (ISR) had stormed her way through her opponents today to take on Kayra OZDEMIR (TUR). Though favour may have laid with Hershko’s ranking, Ozdemir was on fire and managed a nice transition in to osae komi to take the win.
Excitement was building in the -90kg category for Maxime-Gael NGAYEP HAMBOU (FRA) as he pushed his opponent, Elian HAJIYEV (AZE) toward the side of the tatami, but Hajiyev was unbothered and used the position to his advantage, attacking with a sasae movement but threw from his back, securing the waza ari and finished in osae komi. The 21 year-old is third seed of the Azeri team in the -90kg category following the retirement of Mammadali MEHDIYEV, but after today he will overtake Vugar TALIBOV regardless of the final result.
After a quick finish in the first semi final, attention went to the other contest between Mihael ZGANK (TUR) and Rafael MACEDO (BRA). The pair went deep in to golden score with Zgank keeping a clean sheet as Macedo picked up two shidos, the former looking quite comfortable after eight minutes. Eventually a third shido was issued to Macedo and Zgank could be pleased with his place in the final of the -90kg category, historically taking bronze medals in 2017 and 2022.
Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) has been working his way up in the -100kg category, already a double World Champion at -90kg. Then he was plagued by an injury which kept him off the tatami for month, but last week he managed to secure the silver medal in the Portugal Grand Prix, and today went from strength to strength, all the way to the semi final against Nurlykhan SHARKHAN (KAZ). Sherazadishvili dealt with this as quickly as possible, and got to work on the ground, turning his opponent in just over thirty seconds and taking his win to have a place in the final.
For his ultimate opponent, WOLF Aaron (JPN), it wasn’t so easy. Anton SAVYTSKIY (UKR) was not about to give the contest away and worked hard to prevent the current Olympic Champion taking the win, however he was on the receiving end of a beautiful, ippon scoring uchi mata.
The atmosphere exploded in the Bercy Arena as Teddy RINER (FRA) took his place on the tatami for the +100kg semi final, looking for his eight title here in Paris. It was a shaky start however, with Alisher YUSUPOV (UZB) scoring first with yoko guruma, which was initially scored as ippon, silencing the crowd. This certainly ‘woke the beast’, with Riner scoring shortly after with uchi mata. It came again with only 30 seconds left on the clock, stunning Yusupov who looked to go for the yoko guruma a second time, but it was Riner that claimed the score.
For Riner the title is within touching distance, and will challenge KIM Minjong (KOR) for it.
Author: Thea Cowen