Following the intense Mittersill training camp in Austria, the athletes are returning for the first IJF World Tour tournament of the year in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Dusting off the cobwebs in the Grand Prix this weekend are almost 600 athletes – 200 more than the previous year – some of the higher ranked players getting a head start on this years battle, some still fighting to earn those Olympic qualification points.
Not all of our top ranked athletes will be present, however that doesn’t mean there isn’t a plethora of talent ready to put on a top performance in the Shlomo Arena. The home nation has 42 entrants including their current World Champion and WRL #1, Sagi MUKI.
The -81kg category will be a tough one with the seeded athletes within the top 18 in the world. All will be chasing down MUKI, now competing with his recently attained red back patch but in front of a home crowd will be a difficult task.
Reigning Tel Aviv Grand Prix champions including Jorre VERSTRAETEN (BEL), Shira RISHONY (ISR), Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS), Timna NELSON LEVY (ISR), Maria CENTRACCHIO (ITA), Anna BERNHOLM (SWE) and Or SASSON (ISR) will all be back to ensure they retain their winning status, however with the popularity of this event significantly increasing in 2020 the challenge will be much greater.
2019 -48kg gold medallist, Shira RISHONY (ISR). – Gabriela Sabau
2019 -60kg gold medallist, Jorre VERSTRAETEN (BEL). – Gabriela Sabau
2019 -52kg gold medallist, Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS). – Gabriela Sabau
2019 -57kg gold medallist, Timna NELSON LEVY (ISR). – Gabriela Sabau
2019 -81kg gold medallist, Sagi MUKI (ISR). – Gabriela Sabau
2019 -63kg gold medallist, Maria CENTRACCHIO (ITA). – Gabriela Sabau
2019 -70kg gold medallist, Anna BERNHOLM (SWE). – Gabriela Sabau
2019 +100kg gold medallist, Or SASSON (ISR). – Gabriela Sabau
The Olympic hosts, Japan, are also sending a selection of athletes, not necessarily all of their top seeds but with the likes of SHISHIME Ai, ONO Yoko, UMEKI Mami and ASAHINA Sarah, the level will be exceedingly high.
The excitement will be building for the final day as Teddy Riner (FRA) returns to the tatami in an unseeded position, ready to shake up the mens heavyweight category which also spots the younger generation in seeded places including Georgian heavyweight success, Gela ZAALISHVILI and Stephan HEGYI (AUT).
The Israeli crowd typically create an incredible atmosphere and will be the perfect stage for the 2020 IJF World Tour initiation. Good luck to all of the athletes looking to find their place in the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Author: Thea Cowen