Let’s dive straight in to the third and final preview of the Tokyo Grand Slam 2023…
The Canadian team are offering up two athletes with world ranking number one status this week and after already identifying Christa DEGUCHI in the -57kg category, we look to Catherine BEAUCHEMIN-PINARD in the -63kg category. This weight class had a former British leader, Lucy RENSHALL, who was forced from the tour following a brutal facial injury in the Zagreb Grand Prix, though admirably this did not deter her from taking the gold medal in a gruelling final. Given the busy schedule of the tour, this has meant that her opponents have been able to rack up points in her absence, pushing her down to #7 in the WRL, though this will likely be a temporary setback. So this event marks her tour comeback and the climb. Ahead of Renshall in Tokyo is European silver medallist, Gili SHARIR (ISR), TAKAICHI Miku (JPN) and another European medallist, Angelika SZYMANSKA (POL). The Montpellier podium continues with the current champion, Andreja LESKI (SLO) who has made it to the eighth seeding position behind OZBAS Szofi (HUN) and another Japanese entry HORIKAWA Megumi.
Canada’s strength permeates the -100kg weight category with Kyle REYES and Shady ELNAHAS however they sit behind the current European champion Zelym KOTSOIEV (AZE) and Michael KORREL (NED). In fact, the top two are the limited EJU representatives in seeded positions with BATKHUYAG Gonchigsuren (MGL), Dzhafar KOSTOEV (UAE), current world champion, Arman ADAMIAN (AIN) and Matvey KANIKOVSKIY (AIN) filling up the last four. Interestingly, the 2022 champion, Gennaro PIRELLI (ITA) has returned to defend the title and his extraordinary day in Tokyo, though he has immense rivalry, and not just from the host team. It has been a minute, but we have the Georgian team captain back in our midst, Varlam LIPARTELIANI as well as Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) who in his comeback secured a European bronze medal most recently.
Perhaps however, in true Italian form, we will see a new talent emerge on the senior circuit this week with the very recently crowned U23 European champion, Daniele ACCOGLI.
Though we are aware of the great Japanese threat, with a potential of four athletes in each weight category, it is very much a glaring issue in the -78kg category with three of their women in the top 17 in the WRL. TAKAYAMA Rika holds the fourth seeding position, with HAMADA Shori and UMEKI Mami sure to be causing early upsets as they sit outside the top eight. For the leader, Inbar LANIR (ISR) this will serve as a huge motivation to defend her top spot, but outwith the Japanese entry, we also have Guusje STEENHUIS (NED), Mayra AGUIAR (BRA), one half of Ukraine’s entry and world medallist Yelyzaveta LYTVYNENKO, LEE Jeonyun (KOR), Giorgia STANGHERLIN (ITA) and Fanny Estelle POSVITE (FRA).
The final weight to look at is the +100kg mens category. Many may have hoped for the French talent, Teddy RINER to appear, however the Olympics is the priority and so we can excuse the absence, and there is potential for the current Olympic champion, Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) to me missing in action, despite his name being on the list, it will be a last minute decision whether or not he will take to the tatami in Tokyo. Aside from these heavy hitters, leading the charge is current co-world champion, Inal TASEOV (AIN) who has been stringing together his golden accomplishments since Doha, three Grand Slam golds in fact in Ulaanbaatar, Baku and Abu Dhabi. As the one to beat, Alisher YUSUPOV (UZB), 2022 world champion, Andy GRANDA (CUB) and home favourite SAITO Tatsuru will have their work cut out for them. Aside from Ushangi KOKAURI (AZE), the European entry is lacking significantly this week, though further down the ranking list there is double junior European champion and current junior world champion, Shalva GURESHIDZE (GEO) knocking on the door to enter the hall of Georgian heavyweight greats.
Author: Thea Cowen