22 March 2024


Tbilisi Grand Slam 2024


The final block was opened by the -48kg women in Tbilisi, and one of the great stories of the day included Laura ESPADINHA (FRA). Though she didn’t leave with the gold medal, LEE Hyekyeong (KOR) winning the category, the unseeded French athlete made her mark on the IJF World Tour. In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that Espadinha won her first continental open medal in Warsaw, so to project herself in to a Grand Slam final has been a sensational achievement.

One of two of Georgia’s medal hopes came from Giorgi SARDALASHVILI, the number one seed of the -60kg category today. After defeating one half of team Azerbaijan in the repechage (2023 gold medallist, Turan BAYRAMOV) he was faced with Balabay AGHAYEV for bronze. In an expected dynamic head to head, the pair went in to golden score, with Aghayev on the back foot holding on to two shidos, but managed to catch Sardalashvili in just under one minute with a very low tai o toshi, scoring waza ari. On the other hand of the draw, Tornike TSJAKADOEA (NED) had a strong following in the crowd today, his family roots based here in Georgia, and what a wonderful finish it was, defeating Richard VERGNES (FRA) with sumi gaeshi. It appears the Netherlands representative is on a roll following a medal win in Upper Austria too.

Tornike TSJAKADOEA (NED) © Gabriela Sabau

Talking about a roll, Yam WOLCZAK (ISR) defeated Sardalashvili in the quarter final on his way to the -60kg final today, and initially controlled the final against Nurkanat SERIKBAYEV (KAZ). After a hard fought contest, it was a last minute score from the Kazakhstan athlete to secure the gold.

The women’s -52kg category was going to be victorious for both athletes, no matter the outcome as it was the first Grand Slam final for both Ariane TORO SOLER (ESP) and Ana Viktorija PULJIZ (CRO). The former has already stood on the Grand Slam podium twice this year, claiming bronze in Paris and Baku, but this was her chance to claim gold, for Puljiz, first medal at this level. In the end, after a tactical battle, both athletes earned two shidos, then a clinch ensued. The Spanish delegation erupted as Toro executed a title winning uchi mata, and part of that delegation was mother, Yolanda SOLER, Olympic bronze medallist and three-time European Champion.

Ariane TORO SOLER (ESP) © Gabriela Sabau

Closing out the day, in true style, was Eteri LIPARTELIANI in the -57kg category. Regardless of the final result, Georgia would claim one medal on the first day, but she stuck to the plan and essentially strong-armed opponent, Jessica KLIMKAIT (CAN). With her dominant control and timing, Liparteliani countered Klimkait’d drop seoi nage attempt and defence with sumi gaeshi. The Georgian did well to defend her score until time ran out, and for the first time in history, the women could claim a gold medal for Team Georgia. Not only on this occasion, but for Eteri who already has four silver and five bronze Grand Slam medals, this was her first title.

Eteri LIPARTELIANI (GEO) © Gabriela Sabau


Author: Thea Cowen