The 50th edition of the Paris Grand Slam is off to a tremendous start, and the French have plenty to celebrate going in to the final block. There are a potential of three gold medals from current European Champions, Luka MKHEIDZE and Shirine BOUKLI, as well as 22 year-old Faiza MOKDAR who goes in to her first Grand Slam final.
The world ranked #1 Assunta SCUTTO (ITA) took on the 2021 Paris Grand Slam winner and world bronze medallist KOGA Wakana (JPN) in the first -48kg semi final, and countered an attack for waza ari. Though Scutto looked secure in the contest, a swift ashi guruma from Koga turned the tables and the 22 year-old headed in to her third Paris Grand Slam final. On the other side of the draw, we had an all-European affair with the current European Champion, Shirine BOUKLI (FRA) and Laura MARTINEZ ABELENDA (ESP). The pair headed in to golden score, but quite quickly, Martinez picked up a third shido which awarded the contest to Boukli.
Going in to the semi final, current European Champion Luka MKHEIDZE (FRA) and current World Champion, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP) have four previous head to heads and were even with 2:2. Naturally there was more pressure (and more support) for Mkheidze in from of his home crowd, and it willed him in this ballistic contest. After a drop seoi nage attempt, Mkheidze felt the resistance and changed direction to throw for waza ari, and in the end was enough to make it 3:2 to the Frenchman and sent him to his first Paris Grand Slam final. He will now take on world bronze medallist, LEE Harim (KOR) in the final and Garrigos will face Dilshot KHALMATOV (UKR) for the bronze.
Chelsie GILES (GBR), Olympic medallist in Tokyo has remained on top form, and looks to continue doing so as we near closer the the next Olympic Games which will be held only 7km from the Bercy Arena. Giles had somewhat of a surprise in her semi final with Ariane TORO SOLER (ESP), nevertheless, the British world silver medallist stuck to her system and worked down on the ground to apply a contest-winning juji gatame. It won’t be an easy ride for Giles in the final though, coming up against the current -48kg Olympic Champion, Distria KRASNIQI (KOS).
It wasn’t entirely clear however that Krasniqi would win, as OMORI Kisumu (JPN) put in a stellar effort against the Kosovo athlete, heading in to golden score. Then Krasniqi finally managed to pull out an o uchi gari attack the secure her place against Gilles.
In the -66kg category, the Asian continent dominated seeing; MARUYAMA Joshiro (JPN), AN Baul (KOR), TAKEOKA Takeshi (JPN) and YONDONPERENLEI Baskhuu (MGL) in the semi finals, leaving only 2023 Paris Grand Slam champion, Bogdan IADOV (UKR) and European silver medallist David GARCIA TORNE (ESP) in with a chance of a medal if they made it through their individual repechage contests. In the end it was only the latter who secured his place in the final block, an ippon win with o uchi gari against Willian LIMA (BRA). Garcia will face An for the bronze medal, and we will see an all-Japan final in the Bercy.
There was an interesting semi final result in the -57kg category with two France versus Canada scenarios. This of course meant we could be in for another all-Canadian final which has become all too common on the IJF World Tour as the top two in the WRL, Christa DEGUCHI and Jessica KLIMKAIT. In the first contest, Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE (FRA) made an attempt to defeat the current World Champion, but ceded the contest, with Deguchi scoring an indisputable ippon with o uchi gari. This of course put pressure on Klimkait to follow suit and continue the national concurrence, and before today, most would have made the assumption she would have done just that.
Again, before today, because her semi final opponent Faiza MOKDAR (FRA) was different. She may be three-time Junior European Champion with two Grand Slam bronze medals, but in comparison with her Canadian opponent, her accolades are somewhat lacking. That didn’t matter though, Mokdar is confident in her conviction and was not phased in this contest, this was undoubtedly already fuelled by her previous wins against Hasret BOZKURT (TUR), Telma NELSON LEVY (ISR), Pauline STARKE (GER) and Rafaela SILVA (BRA). After a gruelling contest, with both picking up shidos, Mokdar secured the win with a perfectly timed de ashi barai, bringing the crowd to their feet, and running off to two-time -57kg Paris Grand Slam champion, Automne PAVIA.
Author: Thea Cowen