28 February 2024


Tashkent Grand Slam 2024


With the live draw tomorrow at 14:00 local time in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the IJF World Judo Tour continues. Between March 1-3, almost 500 athletes from 69 nations will continue in their Olympic bid, either to better their positioning or qualify.

Some already secure in their places are the WRL #1 judoka; Matthias CASSE (BEL/-81kg), Inbar LANIR (ISR/-78kg) and Assunta SCUTTO (ITA/-48kg). That being said, there will be 48 athletes competing in Tashkent within the top 10 of their respective categories so the competition will be fierce.

Rivalling Scutto, we have the most recent Grand Slam winner, Tara BABULFATH (SWE) who has soared up to #31 in the WRL since her win in Baku. This win put her in qualification for Paris 2024, so now the plan is to climb and insure that spot.

Lightweight men are lead by Giorgi SARDALASHVILI (GEO), the world championship bronze medallist who is still searching for another IJF World Tour medal. He will be joined by teammate Lukhumi CHKHVIMIANI, as well as a strong Asian line up; Dilshodbek BARATOV (UZB), ENKHTAIVAN Ariunbold (MGL) and Nurkanat SERIKBAYEV (KAZ) in the seeded positions. From Europe we look to Romain VALADIER PICARD (FRA), Jorre VERSTRAETEN (BEL) and Salih YILDIZ (TUR).

Amandine BUCHARD (FRA) is making her return to competition after pulling out of the Paris Grand Slam, opting to tend to a niggling injury and prepare instead for the road ahead in the -52kg category. She will be rivalled by top entires including Chelsie GILES (GBR)and Mascha BALLHAUS (GER), but looking down the list, we also have Kenya PERNA (ITA) who took gold in Warsaw last weekend.

Kenya PERNA (ITA) © Carlos Ferreira

The only seeded European in the -66kg category is Matteo PIRAS (ITA), while the other spots are taken up Pan America and Asia, namely Willian LIMA (BRA) at the top of the pile, followed by host hopefuls Mukhriddin TILOVOV and Sardor NURILLAEV. Notably we also have former World Champion of the -60kg category, Yago ABULADZE (AIN) making moves.

There is a German duo in the seeding positions of the -57kg category; Pauline STARKE (4) and Seija BALLHAUS (7), with only eight positions apart on the world ranking list, this is yet another head to head for Germany. Sandwiched between the two is current European Champion, Daria KURBONMAMADOVA (AIN). Joining Starke in the top four, in order, are Rafaela SILVA (BRA), FUNAKUBO Haruka (JPN) and Timna NELSON LEVY (ISR).

It will be an exciting second day of competition for the home crowd with WRL #3 Murodjon YULDOSHEV, WRL #6 Shakhram AKHADOV and WRL #16 Obidkhon NOMANOV of Uzbekistan bringing the entertainment in the -73kg category. But to spoil the fun, Manuel LOMBARDO (ITA) is in action alongside Makhmadbek MAKHMADBEKOV (AIN). One to watch in this category could be Jorge CANO GARCIA (ESP) after he gave a groundbreaking performance in Belgrade during the European Club Championships.

Shakhram AKHADOV (UZB) © Gabi Juan

Aside from Prisca AWITI ALCARAZ (MEX) and Ketleyn QUADROS (BRA), the seeded positions are shared by some of Europe’s best in the -63kg category. Lucy RENSHALL (GBR) is topping the list, after a bronze medal in the Paris Grand Slam she appears to be back on track and like she never left. Contending, there is a double act from Israel; Gili SHARIR and Inbal SHEMESH. Then we have the World Championship finalists; Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) and Andreja LESKI (SLO). Closing out the seeded group is Barbara TIMO (POR). Outside however, we have Paris Grand Slam finalist, Katarina KRISTO (CRO) as well as Japanese threat, NABEKURA Nami.

Casse will be joined by an elite group including current Olympic Champion, NAGASE Takanori (JPN), and medallist, Shamil BORCHASHVILI (AUT). We have more champions including the current European title holder, Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR), as well as outside threats such as Giacomo GAMBA (ITA) and recently returned Adrian SULCA (ROU).

After jumping ahead with a Paris Grand Slam win, Miriam BUTKEREIT (GER) is coming in as second seed of the -70kg category to NIIZOE Saki (JPN). The chase isn’t over however, with world silver medallist Giovanna SCOCCIMARRO (GER) only six positions behind. Another double entry comes from Great Britain with Kelly PETERSEN POLLARD and Katie-Jemima YEATS-BROWN.

Davlat BOBONOV (UZB) © Gabi Juan

Former World Champion, Davlat BOBONOV (UZB) will be another home hero for the crowds, having won his world title right here. It won’t be a walk in the park for the -90kg athlete, with the likes of ERlan SHEROV (KGZ), Ivan Felipe SILVA MORALES (CUB) and Christian PARLATI (ITA) in the top four. Aside from that, Ivaylo IVANOV (BUL) is looking very comfortable now and put in a tremendous performance in Baku, but all will have their eye on the man with the killer uchi mate, Mikhail IGOLNIKOV (AIN).

This is a major tournament for the -78kg women, Lanir leading, yet she has Paris Grand Slam finalists Alice BELLANDI (ITA) and Anna-Maria WAGNER (GER) on her heels, as well as current European Champion, Alina BOEHM (GER). Making up the rest of the seeding, Patricia SAMPAIO (POR) and Fanny Estelle POSVITE (FRA) will be representing for Europe, and challenging MA Zhenzhao (CHN) and TAKAYAMA Rika (JPN).

The man of the hour in the -100kg category is the cool, calm and collected Matvey KANIKOVSKIY (AIN), who is currently outdoing his World Champion team mate Arman ADAMIAN, though they both still sit in the top 11 of the WRL. Muzzarfarbek TUROBOYEV (UZB) will be, like Bobonov, looking for home glory again as he also took the world title in Tashkent, and another still in search is Peter PALTCHIK (ISR). Piotr KUCZERA (POL) surprised many in Baku, and he will want to go again but now he has some of the more experience in the weight class including Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) and Jorge FONSECA (POR) to contend with. Though the list of potentials is extensive, we can’t leave the -100kg category without mentioning Japan’s rising star, ARAI Dota and the champion slayer, Georgios KROUSSANIOTAKIS (CYP).

Matvey KANIKOVSKIY (AIN) and ARAI Dota (JPN) © Tamara Kulumbegashvili

Speaking of experience, Kayra SAYIT (TUR) managed to put a wider gap between herself and younger teammate Hilal OZTURK with a silver medal in the Paris Grand Slam, but can she continue her mission in Tashkent? Raz HERSHKO (ISR) is leading the +78kg women, and is looking at a double entry from China; XU Shiyan and SU Xin, as well as Lea FONTAINE (FRA), just one of France’s top stars in this category. Rochele NUNES (POR) and Milica ZABIC (SRB) round up the seeded positions.

Finally, the heavyweight men. World Champion and WRL #2, Inal TASOEV (AIN) is heading the +100kg group, followed by Alisher YUSUPOV and former World Champion, Andy GRANDA (CUB), with teammate Tamerlan BASHAEV (AIN), also in the top four. For the home crowd, they’ll be willing on Shokhrukhkhon BAKHTIYOROV as he shares seeding positions with KAGUERA Kokomo (JPN), SIPOCZ Richard (HUN) and Munir ERTUG (TUR), all very capable.

Author: Thea Cowen