18 August 2023


Zagreb Grand Prix 2023


Though there weren’t too many surprises in the preliminary rounds of the Zagreb Grand Prix on day one, Georgios BALARJISHVILI (CYP) stunned in the quarter final against number one seed and current European Champion of the -66kg category, Bogdan IADOV (UKR). The number four in the world ranking was equally surprised to find himself on the losing side of this quarter final-ippon score, but two-time Games of the Small States of Europe Champion, Balarjishvili can be sure to take a jump up the ranking from #71 following todays achievement, regardless of the end result. In fact, a medal here would put him in a significantly better position to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games. The Cypriot representative will compete for the bronze medal against Aibolat YSTYBAY (KAZ).

Georgios BALARJISHVILI (CYP) © Carlos Ferreira

Another great result came about for Morocco, 27 year-old Soumiya IRAOUI had attempted, tirelessly, to achieve a result on the IJF circuit with her best result being a fifth in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last year. She can now celebrate a medal no matter what, following a tremendous performance throughout the day, and will meet Jessica PEREIRA (BRA) in the final of the -52kg category. In the -66kg Europe will be missing out on a leading medal as Willian LIMA (BRA) and Sardor NURILLAEV (UZB) will battle it out for the gold medal.

In the -48kg category, the two semi finals saw a ‘Serbia versus Spain’ match up. First up was Milica NIKOLIC (SRB) and Laura MARTINEZ ABELENDA (ESP). Nikolic secured ippon eventually, but not before an extended contest which ran deep in to golden score. Following the first win for the Serbian team, Andrea STOJADINOV stepped up to make it a national final, taking on Mireia LAPUERTA COMAS (ESP). Yet another golden score head to head ensued, only this time an uchi mata attempt from Lapuerta won the contest. Though Nikolic leads the head to head in this final, it will be a chance for Lapuerta to make a comeback.

Mireia LAPUERTA COMAS (ESP) © Carlos Ferreira

Dilshot KHALMATOV (UKR) has had two opportunities in an -60kg final this year, both in the Upper Austria Grand Prix and the Antalya Grand Slam, however was forced to settle for the silver medal on both occasions. Once again he has secured a place in the final, this time against Ahmad YUSIFOV (AZE).

Dilshot KHALMATOV (UKR) © Carlos Ferreira

Both the Stangar sisters, Marusa (-48kg) and Anja (-52kg) battled through their respective repechage contests to be in with a chance of a bronze medal. The lighter of the two has been on a roll as of recent, taking Grand Prix golds in Upper Austria and Dushanbe, whereas Anja has been working hard to come back to her former standards, following a break in her career after a cancer diagnosis. She has stood on the Zagreb podium before, taking bronze in 2017.

Both semi finals of the -57kg category were all-European affairs, Pauline STARKE (GER) faced Marica PERISIC (SRB) and on the other side of the draw, Veronica TONIOLO (ITA) took on Kaja KAJZER (SLO).

Marica PERISIC (SRB) © Carlos Ferreira

Starke gave a convincing performance but Perisic always had an answer for the attacks, eventually countering her opponent for waza ari. Similarly, Toniolo countered an anticipated uchi mata from Kajzer early in the contest to secure the initial score, and in the end it was enough to send her in to the final.

The final block will commence at 17:00 local time, streamed live at JudoTV.com.


Author: Thea Cowen