22 May 2017

CHALLENGERS STRUCK DOWN BY CLASSY KHALMURZAEV

Grand Slam Ekatarinburg 2017

CHALLENGERS STRUCK DOWN BY CLASSY KHALMURZAEV

After a first round bye Khalmurzaev faced the relatively unknown WATANABE Hayato (JPN) whose IJF World Tour achievements amount to date to a second place finish at the 2016 Tashkent Grand Prix. But the 24-year old Japanese proceeded to give the Olympic champion a contest that he is likely to remember for quite some while to come. The total time spent on the mat was 17 minutes, albeit that part of that was taken up with a break to treat a blood injury to Khalmurzaev’s lip, and a finger injury sustained by Watanabe. Nevertheless, the pair battled away into golden score where Khalmurzaev eventually threw Watanabe with de ashi bari for waza ari to bring their marathon to a close. The contest gave every appearance of being a technical exercise for Watanabe rather than the usual head-to-head battle. But Watanabe (and those interested in assessing Khalmurzaev) will have come away with valuable footage of just how to make things difficult for the Olympic champion.

There were no favours being offered to Khalmurzaev and he was again made to work for his win when in the quarter final the fast improving Etiene BRIAND (CAN) took Khalmurzaev the distance, collecting a third shido with only 10 seconds left on the clock. In the semi final it was the turn of number one seed Frank DE WIT (NED) to take Khalmurzaev into golden score where after only ten seconds the Russian threw De Wit for waza ari with uchi mata. By now Khalmurzaev had warmed to his task and in the final it was the turn of UNGVARI Atilla (HUN) to be on the receiving end from Khalmurzaev of another trade mark uchi mata this time for ippon and the gold medal.

The gold back patch worn by all current Olympic title holders is without doubt a target. Today’s targeting of Khalmurzaev is understandable from a tactical point of view and is a reflection of the nature of competitive sport. Yet the concentration of efforts of those who seek to defeat Khalmurzaev may yet amount to little given that Russia may decide to offer up the likes of Khubetsov or Lappinagov during this cycle, any one of whom is capable of meeting any potential challenge.

It is perfectly possible that there was a collective sigh of relief from competitors entered in the -81kg category when they realized that world number one Alan KHUBETSOV (RUS) and world number five Aslan LAPPINAGOV (RUS) were sitting out the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam. However, filling one of the four places reserved for Russia as host nation was current Olympic champion Khasan KHALMURZAEV (RUS) whose appearance helped to draw a large crowd on the second day of competition.

After a first round bye Khalmurzaev faced the relatively unknown WATANABE Hayato (JPN) whose IJF World Tour achievements amount to date to a second place finish at the 2016 Tashkent Grand Prix. But the 24-year old Japanese proceeded to give the Olympic champion a contest that he is likely to remember for quite some while to come. The total time spent on the mat was 17 minutes, albeit that part of that was taken up with a break to treat a blood injury to Khalmurzaev’s lip, and a finger injury sustained by Watanabe. Nevertheless, the pair battled away into golden score where Khalmurzaev eventually threw Watanabe with de ashi bari for waza ari to bring their marathon to a close. The contest gave every appearance of being a technical exercise for Watanabe rather than the usual head-to-head battle. But Watanabe (and those interested in assessing Khalmurzaev) will have come away with valuable footage of just how to make things difficult for the Olympic champion.

There were no favours being offered to Khalmurzaev and he was again made to work for his win when in the quarter final the fast improving Etiene BRIAND (CAN) took Khalmurzaev the distance, collecting a third shido with only 10 seconds left on the clock. In the semi final it was the turn of number one seed Frank DE WIT (NED) to take Khalmurzaev into golden score where after only ten seconds the Russian threw De Wit for waza ari with uchi mata. By now Khalmurzaev had warmed to his task and in the final it was the turn of UNGVARI Atilla (HUN) to be on the receiving end from Khalmurzaev of another trade mark uchi mata this time for ippon and the gold medal.

The gold back patch worn by all current Olympic title holders is without doubt a target. Today’s targeting of Khalmurzaev is understandable from a tactical point of view and is a reflection of the nature of competitive sport. Yet the concentration of efforts of those who seek to defeat Khalmurzaev may yet amount to little given that Russia may decide to offer up the likes of Khubetsov or Lappinagov during this cycle, any one of whom is capable of meeting any potential challenge.