20 August 2023


Zagreb Grand Prix 2023


The number one seeds were proving their worth on the third day of the Zagreb Grand Prix 2023 initially, however first to cede a loss was Ushangi KOKAURI (AZE) in the +100kg semi final, to OTA Hyoga (JPN). On the other side of the draw, two-time Olympic champion Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) made his way in to the semi final against 19 year-old, Tbilisi Grand Slam silver medallist, Munir ERTUG (TUR). Experience was certainly on the Czech athlete’s side and he strategically worked in ne waza for the win in the second minute.

Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) © Carlos Ferreira

Türkiye were in with a double chance of a final place with Kayra OZDEMIR – formerly SAYIT – facing Samah Hawa CAMARA (FRA), and Hilal OZTURK battling against Milica ZABIC (SRB). Top seed Ozdemir took her first Grand Prix gold for Türkiye in 2015 and has added world and masters medals to her collection since, making her one of the strongest in the weight, which she made evident against Camara, dominating the contest and taking the win for a place in the final. Unfortunately for Ozturk she couldn’t make it a national final and instead Zabic will try for a third time to defeat Ozdemi, their most recent head to head was the Antalya Grand Slam final this year.

The Turkish nation continued their success in the -90kg category as well with world silver medallist Mihael ZGANK taking his place in the semi final against surprise of the category, Daniel NIETO TRINIDAD (ESP). It was a tough battle but Zgank came out on top in golden score after a flurry of attacks, and is now in his first IJF World Tour final since 2020, celebrating accordingly. Taking Zgank on for the gold is top seed TOTH Krisztian (HUN), following a gruelling contest against Mongolia’s GANTULGA Altanbagana, the point came from a driving seoi nage in golden score.

Yael VAN HEEMST (NED) made quite the return to competition following an extended break due to injury and surgery, defeating the home representative Petrunjela PAVIC (CRO) for a place in the semi final against Ukraine’s Yuliia KURCHENKO. The pair went in to golden score with two shidos each but only seconds after the contest restarted, Kurchenko secured the win, doubling up with ashi waza to go in to the final with Karol GIMENES (BRA). It has been a strong day for Kurchenko, even defeating former world champion Anna Maria WAGNER (GER) in the quarter final.

Another two athletes who were back to fighting form were Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) and Jorge FONSECA (POR), both throwing big throughout their preliminary rounds to find respective places in the -100kg final, a repeat of the 2021 world championship final in Budapest. Kukolj earned his final place with a swift tani o goshi, and as for Fonseca, his opponent Simeon CATHARINA (NED) was preparing for a seoi nage assault but instead was caught with a strong ko soto from the Portuguese.


Author: Thea Cowen