The last time the IJF World Tour was in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, was for the Senior World Championships in 2022. Though Europe had great success there, the only returning champion this week will be Barbara MATIC (CRO). With the IJF calendar being as populated with events as it is, some of these major grand slams conflict with training blocks which means the top players are often distributed. This is certainly the case this week as major players from the French, Azeri and Georgian team have swapped home territory for Japan in their preparations.
So who will be competing for the grand slam points between the 3rd and 5th of March in the men’s categories?
In the lighter of the men’s categories, France are claiming the top seeded positions with Cedric REVOL (-60kg) and Walide KHYAR (-66kg). The former remains on the chase of team mate Luka MKHEIDZE who has returned in great form, enough to take the gold in the Tel Aviv Grand Slam. Revol will still be challenged this week however as former European and world champion, Lukhumi CHKHVIMIANI (GEO) isn’t far behind.
The -81kg category has just become a little more interesting, the past weekend in the European Open in Warsaw, Victor STERPU debuted in this new weight category with a strong performance, however he will be up against tougher individuals this week with the likes of Shamil BORCHASHVILI (AUT) and Joao FERNANDO (POR). Fernando seems to be in the swing of things this year, claiming more and more points in each tournament, defeating the number one seed this weekend, Guilherme SCHIMIDT (BRA) in Tel Aviv and had a monstrous win against the former world champion, Matthias CASSE (BEL) in Paris.
The current world champions of the -90kg and -100kg are here to deliver for the home crowd; Davlat BOBONOV and Muzaffarbek TUROBOYEV will have an edge on their opponents but potentially extra weight on their shoulders with high expectations. Coming for them are Tel Aviv Grand Slam finallists, TOTH Krisztian (HUN) and Beka GVINIASHVILI (GEO), with the latter taking the gold. As well as these podium regulars we have the 2022 Masters champion Alexis MATHIEU (FRA) in the mix. Georgian strength lies in the -100kg as well, both Varlam LIPARTELIANI and Onise SANEBLIDZE are in the top four, followed closely by Dzhafar KOSTOEV (UAE) who ended Liparteliani’s campaign in Paris this year and he went on to take the silver medal. He made a big splash on the international circuit with a fifth place in the IJF Masters as well.
In the +100kg category, Asia and Pan America have taken the top five seeding places, in fact, there is only Gela ZAALISHVILI (GEO) sitting in the top eight from the European Judo Union. The four-time grand slam winner has his work cut out for him with the world ranked one and two; Temur RAKHIMOV (TJK) and host nations Alisher YUSUPOV (UZB).
The three day event begins on Friday 3rd of March, but don’t miss the draw on Thursday at 14:00 local time at live.ijf.org.
Author: Thea Cowen