24 January 2024


Odivelas Grand Prix 2024


The total entry for the men divisions this weekend is 372 judoka. The merit of the opposite gender shows not only in quantity but also in quality. Eight world champions and an Olympic Champion are expected to enter the field of play. 

Luka MKHEIDZE (FRA) © Gabi Juan

There are two Olympic and four world medallists amongst the top eight seed in the -60kg category. Starting with top seed, 2023 world bronze medallist, LEE Harim (KOR). Right below, Tokyo Olympics silver medallist, Yung Wei YANG (TPE). The list continues with Europe’s top hopes: 2023 Paris Grand Slam winner, Balabay AGHAYEV (AZE) and Olympic bronze medallist, Luka MKHEIDZE (FRA). Moving further down, ANKHTAIVAN Ariunbold (MGL), KIM Won Jin (KOR) and Dilshodbek BARATOV (UZB) are also all world medallists. With the total of 59 entries, it will take a few rounds before any of these athletes meet face to face on the tatami. 2023 Tbilisi Grand Slam bronze medallists, Artum LESIUK (UKR) and 2023 Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist, Ayub BLIEV (AIN) will be expected to interrupt the ranks. 

Walide KHYAR (FRA) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Double Olympic medallist, AN Baul (KOR) will heavily add to create greater challenge to all in the -66kg category. YONDONPERENLEI Baskhuu (MGL) and Walide KHYAR (FRA) stood side by side on the podium during day two medal ceremony at the 2023 World Judo Championships in Doha, receiving their well-earned bronze medals. There is a chance the pair will meet this weekend. With a rather robust Asian line up, Europe has a real task ahead of them in this division. Slightly better chances in the -73kg category which, commonly, received the most entry via a total of 61 judoka. 2023 European silver medallist, Salvador CASES ROCA (ESP); European bronze medallist, Mark HRISTOV; European silver medallists, Tohar BUTBUL (ISR) and IJF Masters bronze medallist, Igor WANDTKE (GER) are the continent’s top choice to make it to the podium. 

Saeid MOLLAEI (AZE) © Gabi Juan

Europe is guaranteed to have a lot to say or rather show in the -81kg category. The list begins with 2021 and current European Champion, Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR) and continues as follow: 2019 World Champion, Sagi MUKI (ISR), 2018 World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist, Saeid MOLLAEI (AZE); triple European bronze medallist, UNGVARI Attila (HUN), world bronze medallist, Frank DE WIT (NED) and 2023 European bronze medallist, Aplha Oumar DJALO (FRA). Joining the queue outside of the seeding positions is another European bronze medallist, Antonio ESPOSITO (ITA). In order to make it an all European podium, one, but most likely two of them will need to take out top seed, world bronze medallist, LEE Joonhwan (KOR). In case the challenges weren’t enough amongst them, Rio 2016 Olympic Champion, Khasan KHALMURZAEV (AIN) will come to re-introduce his resilient left sided uchi-mata.


In blue, Khasan KHALMURZAEV (AIN). © Gabi Juan

The -90kg category’s top half of the draw will kickstart with world champion, Davlat BOBONOV (UZB) whilst the bottom half will be led, at least on paper, by Olympic bronze medallist, TOTH Krisztian (HUN). World silver medallist Ivan FELIPE SILVA MORALES (CUB) and Masters bronze medallist, Rafael MACEDO (BRA) will strengthen the Pan-Am hopes. 2023 Dushanbe Grand Prix winner, Komronshokh USTOPIRIYON (TJK) is also in the mix. Shifting back towards a European interest, 2023 continental bronze medallist, Mihael ZGANK (TUR) and 2023 Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist, Sami CHOUCHI (BEL) will keep us entertained. Towards the end of the list a rather interesting name is ‘hiding’. Olympic bronze medallist and world champion, GWAK Donghan (KOR). Perhaps not yet with an extensive list of results but certainly in advantage of age and speed it is worth keeping a close look at the performance of Mansur LORSANOV (AIN). 

Arman ADAMIAN (AIN) © Gabi Juan

Aaron FARA (AUT) will have a busy day in the -100kg, as in order to make it onto the podium he has a few hurdles to overcome, starting with 2023 World Champion, Arman ADAMIAN (AIN). Teammate, freshly out of the junior group yet in number one seed position of this event is Matvey KANIKOVSKIY. There are another two former world champions in this weight class, Nikoloz SHERZADASHVILI (ESP) and although it has been a while and since he changed nationality, Asley GONZALEZ (ROU) is also amongst the title holders. Fara will have the Brazilian duet to deal with too, namely, Rafael BUZACARANI and Leonardo GONCALVES. The mens heavy weight will bring on two world title holders, Inal TASOEV (AIN) and Andy GRANDA (CUB) who are number one and two seeds respectively. Double world medallist, KIM Minjong (KOR) follows right after with double Olympic bronze medallist, Rafael SILVA (BRA) whilst Olympic bronze medallist, Tamerlan BASHAEV (AIN) is also added to the list. World silver medallist, Ushangi KOKAURI (AZE) will be there to boost Europe’s medal tally. At the very end of this long list, a familiar name appears, someone, who we have not seen for five years. This individual is a former European bronze medallist and Masters winner, and his name is Daniel NATEA (ROU). Have we mentioned the young Japanese team entered across all weight classes? Well, there is that too.

Author: Szandra Szogedi