7 May 2024


Astana Grand Slam 2024


Incredibly, some of the top athletes in the world have competed in a continental championships followed by the Dushanbe Grand Slam, and are already making their way to Kazakhstan for the Grand Slam in Astana, wrapping up a three-week, points-collecting tour. Kazakhstan won’t even be the final stop, with the World Championships beginning on the 19th of May, concluding the IJF World Judo Tour prior to the Olympic Games.

With only two major events left, 493 athletes from 88 nations are going to give their all between the 10th and 12th of May, either in a last ditch attempt to qualify, or for those higher ranked, to find a strategic place on the world ranking list.

Some of the Olympic French team will be present in Kazakhstan, including Shirine BOUKLI in the -48kg category. This will be her last outing before competing in front of the home crowd in Paris, and is maybe testing the waters against some unfamiliar opponents who have been performing well recently, including Tugce BEDER (TUR). The pair have met twice before as junior athletes, including the Junior World Championships final, but a lot has changed in five years and Beder has pushed through to take silver in Dushanbe and is hoping to jump further this week.

-48kg Semi Final: Junior World Championships 2019 © Burza Rafal

Gefen PRIMO (ISR) was left a little disappointed in Zagreb, but after a very short break, she’s come to get her groove back in the -52kg category, though eyes will be followed the Swiss duo; Binta NDIAYE and Fabienne KOCHER, the finalists of Dushanbe. Now they are #19 and #20 in the world ranking, Kocher really has to push in order to move past her team mate. Sofia ASVESTA (CYP) currently has continental quota, but has come hard this year to earn her Olympic place, and it isn’t over for her yet, with two fifth places in two weeks, defeating some of the highest ranking players, anything is possible.

A win from Jessica KLIMKAIT (CAN) in Dushanbe will certainly motivate Christa DEGUCHI (CAN) this week with the -57kg Olympic spot still up for grabs, but ultimately will be decided in Abu Dhabi. Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE (FRA) came up with the silver in Dushanbe, and now has the other half of the Canadian entry to manage in order to take the top place on the podium. That’s not to say Canada is the only strong entry. Kazakhstan is welcoming Rafaela SILVA (BRA), FUNAKUBO Haruka (JPN), Timna NELSON LEVY (ISR) and recent European finalist, Kaja KAJZER (SLO) all within the top eight.

Iva OBERAN (CRO) © Tamara Kulumbegashvili

The Croatian women’s team have had nothing short of an impressive 2024 period. Without taking in to consideration the -70kg duo and the -52kg Ana Viktorija PULJIZ, the -63kg women; Katarina KRISTO and Iva OBERAN have both put themselves in to qualifying positions with Grand Slam medal accomplishments. The expression ‘success breeds success’ couldn’t be more accurate for this team. Now #20 and #21 in the world ranking, the pressure is on to see who will make it to Paris. Andreja LESKI (SLO) is leading the group, however there is an interesting element in this weight category, who also took a European Championship medal; 18 year-old Savita RUSSO (ITA). After this incredible achievement in Zagreb, she managed to place 5th in Dushanbe and this youngster is causing headaches for the more senior athletes.

Lara CVJETKO (CRO) seems to have come back comfortably in the -70kg category after a minor setback, taking a bronze medal in Zagreb and a Grand Slam silver last week, she is leading the charge in her weight in Kazakhstan. Contesting her at the top of the other half of the draw, is Madina TAIMAZOVA (AIN). The team of Great Britain are on a high with Kelly PETERSEN POLLARD and Katie-Jemima YEATS-BROWN taking bronze and 5th places respectively in Dushanbe, but much focus will be on Kim POLLING.

The now former Dutch athlete is sporting new colours and flying the Italian flag. After moving her life and spending the better part of the last decade there, as well as starting her family, it was the natural transition and now her focus has gone from the World Championships being the highlight of her year, to the Olympic Games.

Anna Monta OLEK (GER) © Tamara Kulumbegashvili

With the top two German athletes; Anna-Maria WAGNER and Alina BOEHM, taking a short rest before Abu Dhabi, Anna Monta OLEK is left to continue flying the flag. As number #13 in the world ranking list, Olek is the second seed for this event and the defending champion, behind MA Zhenzhao (CHN). This is another interesting weight category for Great Britain with Emma REID and Natalie POWELL in the top eight this week, again it was a bronze and 5th place finish for the two last week. Just outside the seeded positions is Loriana KUKA (KOS), after switching weight categories it has been a tough climb for her, but now in continental quota, she is in a better position, and if she can take a step closer to the podium in Kazakhstan, she could cement her ticket to Paris.

Number one in the world ranking, Romane DICKO (FRA) is taking on her rivals in the +78kg category. First up is a double entry from China, also fighting for their Olympic spot, XU Shiyan and SU Xin. Following, we can see only half of the Turkish women’s team, Hilal OZTURK, followed by Cuba’s legend, Idalys ORTIZ and SONE Akira (JPN). Rounding out the seeded positions are Tbilisi Grand Slam winner, Renee LUCHT (GER) and Elis STARTSEVA (AIN).

Follow the draw on the 11th of May and all action throughout the weekend at JudoTV.com or download the JudoTV app with live notifications for your favourite athletes!


Author: Thea Cowen