The third and final day of the Heydar Aliyev Baku Grand Slam saw the remaining five weight categories; -90kg, -78kg, -100kg, +78kg and +100kg go head to head for the gold medals.
Unlike on the previous two days, Azerbaijan could not look forward to a final hurrah, however there were plenty others to hail and rally behind, and the crowd still gave a huge celebration for the bronze medal of Zelym KOTSOIEV in the -100kg category.
In the opening category of -90kg, Ivaylo IVANOV (BUL) took on Mikhail IGOLNIKOV (AIN), and despite the latters’ lack of competition time in recent months due to extenuating circumstance, he once again came out on top, – as in the Ulaanbaatar Grand Slam – his uchi mata remaining a threat. These ranking points will thrust Igolnikov back in to the top 20, surpassing team mate Mansur LORSANOV.
For Anna-Maria WAGNER (GER), this was a game-changing day. Wagner has been agitated by injury recently but due to the fierce competition within the German team in the -78kg category, there is simply no time to rest and risk losing out on these vital ranking points. Throughout the day the German athlete went from strength to strength, defeating team mate Alina BOEHM and UMEKI Mami (JPN) on her way to the final against Alice BELLANDI (ITA). Both had performed incredibly today, and initially it looked as if Bellandi was dominating, but a a tani otoshi secured an ippon win for Wagner. Before today there were only 47 ranking points between Wagner and Boehm, and though the latter will still claim for her fifth place, this widens the lead.
In the third final, we saw one of the two number one seeds making it to the final, Ilia SULAMANIDZE (GEO). Taking on the world ranked number one was Matvey KANIKOVSKIY (AIN). It was a tough head to head given their previous record, and the anticipation was incredible for this -100kg contest. It might have taken until the final fifteen seconds, but Sulamanidze stayed on the pace, forcing Kanikovskiy to pick up two shidos. This resulted in Kanikovskiy coming on thick and fast, which Sulamanidze capitalised on, launching his opponent with obi tori gaeshi, more fondly known among the Georgian team as the ‘Khabareli’. This result will see Sulamanidze verging on 8000 world ranking points, cementing his place at the top.
Rochele NUNES (POR) had an opportunity for gold in the +78kg category, but was faced with Beatriz SOUZA (BRA). The pair struggled and ceded two shidos each, and it was Souza that stepped her game marginally just to stay ahead, the third shido going to Nunes.
The concluding final of the +100kg category could pass as a world or Olympic final with the calibre of athlete on offer; Inal TASOEV (AIN) and Guram TUSHISHVILI (GEO). The pair have faced one another three times in the Senior European Championships, twice in the semi final, and once in the final, and currently their is a 2:1 record to Tasoev. In the end, it became 3:1. The pair picked up two shidos each, and in the final moments, Tasoev countered an uchi mata attempt from Tushishvili, the Georgian also picked up a third shido, awarding the current world champion the gold medal.
In the end, the celebrations could continue for the team of Azerbaijan as they finished on top of the medal table. Now on to the next one in Abu Dhabi between the 24th and 26th of October.
Author: Thea Cowen