31 January 2024


Paris Grand Slam 2024


In the -60kg category, we have the classic headliners including current World Champion, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP), Olympic silver medallist YANG Yung Wei (TPE), ’22 IJF Masters champion, LEE Harim (KOR) and newest on the scene, Giorgi SARDALASHVILI (GEO) who has stormed on to the senior circuit following junior success to take a world medal. Now since that medal in Doha last year, things have been a little quiet for Sardalashvili so he will looking to start his 2024 season with a bang. There are of course, the French trio to contend with, Olympic medallist – and Paris selection – Luka MKHEIDZE, who is ranked #7 in the official ranking, followed by Cedric REVOL at #11 and Romain VALADIER PICARD at #16. It would be easy to list the top 15 and their accolades with the great standard in Paris, but what is always interesting, are those at the bottom, namely NAKAMURA Taiki (JPN). Despite his #101 ranking, the 21 year-old can boast a junior world title, and most recently, a bronze medal in the Tokyo Grand Slam, defeating Sardalshvili, Balabay AGHAYEV (AZE) and finally Lukhumi CHKHVIMIANI (GEO) for the medal.

Denis VIERU (MDA). © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

The Abe siblings may not be present, but fear not, MARUYAMA Joshiro is in the house in the -66kg category for Japan. Truly the people’s champion and incredible technical athlete, it will certainly be a huge feat to take the win against him this weekend, but as he is outwith the top eight, he will be upsetting one of the seeded. So who is up for the challenge? In at number one is world ranking list leader and current European Champion, Denis VIERU (MDA), another technical master. Then, though he missed out on the bronze medal in Portugal, YONDONPERENLEI Baskhuu (MGL) is following closely behind, notorious for outmatching his opponents in endurance and his acrobatic abilities. There is a threat however for Yondonperenlei, whose team mate BATTOGTOKH Erkhembayar is only three spots behind. Back to the Europeans… reigning champion Bogdan IADOV (UKR), Walide KHYAR (FRA) and David GARCIA TORNE (ESP), all very capable podium toppers.

Akil GJAKOVA (KOS). © Carlos Ferreira

The -73kg category is the first not lead by a European athlete, but one of two of the seeded Uzbek competitors; Murodjon YULDOSHEV. Earlier in the year during the Mittersill OTC, Manuel LOMBARDO (ITA) was determined to be on the tatami in Paris after being plagued with issues in years prior. Well, his name is still there so we have every hope that the number two seed will get him chance in the Bercy. There is also Pan-Am threat from Arthur MARGELIDON (CAN) who follows behind Petru PELIVAN (MDA) and Shakhram AKHMADOV (UZB), but a name that is continuing to circulate is that of Salvador CASES ROCA (ESP). Again, the Spanish athlete gave a notable performance and took the Grand Prix silver in Portugal, and with this momentum, a medal in Paris doesn’t seem too unlikely. We do of course, have former Paris champion and the current European Open champion, Akil GJAKOVA (KOS), and great potential from youngster Otari KVANTIDZE (POR) who won the crowd in Odivelas.

French favourite in the -81kg category, Tato GRIGALASHVILI (GEO) will not be competing, but the crowd won’t be left disappointed as WRL #1 Matthias CASSE (BEL) is coming to reclaim the Grand Slam gold. Tokyo Grand Slam winner, LEE Joonhwan (KOR) is laying in wait here, followed by Pan-Am opponents, Guilherme SCHIMIDT (BRA) and Francois GAUTHIER DRAPEAU (CAN). The remaining seeds include; current European Champion, Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR), Somon MAKHMADBEKOV (TJK), Saied MOLLAEI (AZE) and his team mate who failed to step on the tatami in Odivelas, Zelim TCKAEV. French personality, and favourite for Saturday’s competition in this category will undoubtedly be Alpha Our DJALO following a stellar performance in Montpellier. A little further down the ranking is Timo CAVELIUS (GER), finalist from last year, not to mention rising stars; Mihail LATISEV (MDA) and Giacamo GAMBA (ITA).

Tato GRIGALASHVILI (GEO) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Top seed and current Olympic Champion, Lasha BEKAURI (GEO) will be looking for anything but a repeat of 2023 where he lost his first contest to the French athlete Maxime-Gael NGAYAP HAMBOU, the third string of the French -90kg athletes, behind Alexis MATHIEU and Axel CLERGET. Arguably this is one of the most difficult categories to assign favour, with the talent so deeply engrained that GWAK Donghan (KOR) is at #59 in the world ranking list. There is an abundance of world medallists and champions; defending champion, Noel VAN T END (NED), MURAO Sanshiro (JPN), Davlat BOBONOV (UZB), Ivan Felipe SILVA MORALES (CUB) and Christian PARLATI (ITA), and that’s just the seeded group. Portugal Grand Prix winner, Mihail ZGANK (TUR) sits just outside.

Similar to that of the -90kg, predicting the -100kg outcome can seem like a fools errand, and looking at the line up, you’d be right. Though leading the contenders is defending champion, Michael KORREL (NED), his final opponent, Dzhafar KOSTOEV (UAE) is also in seeded position #7. Peter PALTCHIK (ISR) is always on or very close to the podium and has special affection for this tournament, perhaps the Olympic year will give him an extra boost. The Canadian concurrence continues with WRL #6 and #8, Kyle REYES and Shady ELNAHAS, both capable of upset, as are former World Champion, Muzaffarbek TUROBOYEV (UZB) and BATKHUYAG Gonchigsuren (MGL). Closing off the seeding is Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB). At this point before the Olympic Games in Tokyo, it was essential for him to make it in to the world championship final in order to qualify which he managed, now he sits comfortably and in much better preparation for Paris Games. Japan are sending great strength in WOLF Aaron as well as ARAI Dota, the 19 year-old who stunned in the Tokyo Grand Slam with a silver medal.

Lukas KRPALEK (CZE). © Carlos Ferreira

The entertainment will be expected from ultimate competitor, Teddy RINER (FRA) in the +100kg category, but he needs to be on his guard. In the European Club Championships he was caught off guard by the Paris Grand Slam top seed Alisher YUSUPOV (UZB), who took the first score in that particular bout, waking up Riner. Nevertheless, Andy GRANDA (CUB) is the number two, and an obvious threat to European success on the third and final day. Unfortunately Martti PUUMALAINEN (FIN) will no longer be in the line up, but the likes of unseeded Lukas KRPALEK (CZE), Munir ERTUG and Ibrahim TATAROGLU (TUR) as well as 2021 bronze medallist, Joseph TERHEC (FRA).

Author: Thea Cowen