23 March 2024


Tbilisi Grand Slam 2024


On day one of the Tbilisi Grand Slam, the crowd was forced to wait until the very final contest to confirm a gold medal, but on day two, they were allowed some impatience as Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI in the -73kg category came through for his supporters half way through the final block.

It was a strong day for the Olympic Champion (and three time medallist!), but steely determination allowed for a quick end in his final contest for gold, lasting less than 30 seconds. It’s safe to say this was not the expectation against Karen GALSTIAN (AIN) who had extinguished his opponents throughout the day, including HASHIMOTO Soichi (JPN) in the semi final. However it seemed clear from the first grip that Shavdatuashvili was not about to disappoint. Feigning an o uchi gari attack to set up Galstian, he quickly changed direction to throw with yoko gake, and scoring ippon. The first Georgian to earn all major championship titles walked off to coach Lasha GUJEJIANI, showing four fingers for his four wins in Tbilisi; a World Cup win in 2012 before he won his Olympic gold, a Grand Prix and his two Grand Slam titles. Shavdatuashvili made a point of this good omen in 2012 and today looked to give him that feeling he was looking for in the run up to his fourth Olympic Games, and a potential fourth medal.

A swift gold medal win. © Tamara Kulumbegashvili

The first to stand on top of the podium however was Catherine BEACHEMIN-PINARD (CAN) in the -63kg category, so far the only top seed to make it to a final and to win the event. It was a slow start for the Canadian athlete who explained the struggles of travelling through numerous time zones for these big competitions and how it can take a toll, especially in those opening rounds. Nevertheless she found her feet and made her way through to the final against another ne waza specialist, Angelika SZYMANSKA (POL). Aware of the Polish athletes’ abilities, she managed to score with a drop seoi nage and almost made the mistake of going to ground, but in the end, Beauchemin Pinard was the victor.

Gold medal for Catherine BEAUCHEMIN-PINARD (CAN) © Tamara Kulumbegashvili

Barbara MATIC (CRO) has claimed that this year has been nothing short of incredible for her, going from strength to strength, but today was important as she faced one of her toughest opponents in the final of the Grand Slam, for the first time in a competition for five years. On the other half of the draw, Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED) battled through, having missed competition since December and a Tokyo Grand Slam win, but it seemed like business as usual. Unfortunately for the Dutch athlete, she gave Matic too much space which allowed for a drop seoi nage win for the Croatian superstar.

Barbara MATIC (CRO) claims her last IJF Tour win before the major championships line up. © Thea Cowen

Closing out day two of the tournament were the -81kg men; Sharofiddin BOLTABOEV (UZB) and Timur ARBUZOV (AIN). The latter was on fire today, the 19 year-old demonstrating maturity and ability beyond his years, particularly in his ne waza skill set against Sagi MUKI (ISR) during the semi final. In the final however, his tachi waza put the first score on the board, but he sealed the deal with osaekomi for his first Grand Slam gold. Arbuzov won bronze in the Paris Grand Slam only last month, Junior World bronze medallist last year and was Cadet European Champion in 2021. There is undoubtedly much to come from this youngster.

Timur ARBUZOV (AIN) © Gabriela Sabau


Author: Thea Cowen