We expect few surprises in the Masters given the high level of the competition and the fact that anyone is capable of taking gold, but coming out the gates firing today were the French, seeing out anyone in their path.
A tremendous result was attained by the -90kg Alexis MATHIEU who saw out Olympic medallist TOTH Krisztian (HUN) in the opening round as well as the two-man Georgian team of Beka GVINIASHVILI and Luka MAISURADZE. Although Mathieu’s name has been on the tour for some time, this will be his first medal on the IJF World Tour and what a deserved one it will be.
In the final he will take on MURAO Sanshiro (JPN) who is also looking for his first Masters medal. As a result of the semi finals and repechage contests, both Georgians are still in with a chance of bronze medals if they can get past the strength of current world champion Davlat BOBONOV (UZB) and Rafael MACEDO (BRA).
Already in the -78kg category, we are guaranteed three medals from the strong women’s group.
One of France’s superstars, Olympic finalist, world champion, four-time European champion, Audrey TCHEUMEO has come to complete her Masters collection. Despite her sensational achievements and not even the highest ranked in her own country, Tcheumeo has attained two bronze and one silver in the Masters events but is chasing down that gold. It was a gruelling semi final against TAKAYAMA Rika (JPN) but Tcheumeo played an intelligent tactical game which saw her opponent pick up three shidos.
Now she must face the Hungary Grand Slam winner, Alice BELLANDI (ITA) who since moving from the -70kg category has been taking over her new weight and in todays semi final, defeated Tcheumeo’s teammate, WRL #3 Madeleine MALONGA. Both Bellandi and Tcheumeo have a similar style in terms of their fighting spirit so we shall see how the new generation will take on experience in the final block.
Malonga’s defeat means she will face Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) for the bronze.
The -100kg category may be the most unpredictable of all, with only Ilia SULAMANIDZE (GEO) in the top four winning his quarter. So for his semi final he had the surprise of meeting Dzhafar KOSTOEV (UAE), it wasn’t an easy contest and Sulamanidze had to be careful given Kostoev’s previous performances but in the end a waza ari score and contest management gave him the place in the Masters final.
On the other side of the draw Simeon CATHARINA (NED) faced Toma NIKIFOROV (BEL) and decided that it would be the Dutch to go in to the final and compete with Sulamanidze for the gold. This will be the first time that they will fight one another in competition, for Catharina this is a great step forward following his 5th place in Doha last year and for the Georgian his first ever Masters and what a way to start his campaign.
Peter PALTCHIK (ISR) clawed his way back through the repechage to represent his country in the final block and will be up against Nikiforov. Zelym KOTSOIEV (AZE) did the same and takes on Kostoev for the second bronze.
Romane DICKO (FRA) is the world ranked number one and current world champion so her presence in the final today is somewhat expected, but what has surprised us all is that her team mate, Coralie HAYME will be joining her in the battle for gold. Hayme just qualified for a place in Jerusalem, ranking #36 in the world, third in terms of the national team behind #6 Lea FONTAINE and of course Dicko.
Hayme defeated WRL #5 KIM Hayun (KOR) as well as current Olympic champion, SONE Akira (JPN) to find herself in the semi final against the home favourite and WRL #2 Raz HERSHKO (ISR). This impressive tally puts her in great stead for the final but a team rival is significantly different, how will the 2021 junior world champion fare against Dicko on the masters stage?
Israel will look for yet another medal from Hershko and she and Fontaine find themselves with each other for bronze and on the other side of the draw, Kayra SAYIT (TUR) has Sone to compete with.
It wasn’t the best day for the European nations in the mens heavyweight division, the only +100kg who managed to find a place in the final block was current European champion Jur SPIJKERS (NED). He will need to collect himself and return focussed for the bronze contest with KAGUERA Kokoro (JPN) after suffering defeat to Kaguera’s teammate, SAITO Tatsuru in only 10 seconds in the semi final.
The final block will commence at 17:00 local time and the action will be found at live.ijf.org.
Author: Thea Cowen