The Paris Grand Slam can always guarantee some big surprises in the opening rounds, usually as we see some big names leave the tournament early while the French use the energy of the spectators to conquer and progress.
In the opening contest, there were high expectations for the likes of Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) who was defeated by Benjamin AXUS (FRA) to the delight of the crowd. In the same pool, Akil GJAKOVA (KOS) who won the Paris Grand Slam in 2018 was unable to get through his second round. Though it can be argued this is still the first time back for many of the Tokyo Olympics competitors, so many aren’t quite back on fighting form yet.
The -73kg category preliminaries were very exciting and we can look forward to the final block with at least two medals guaranteed for Europe with one potential gold from 2021 world champion, Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO), while Axus and 2016 Olympic champion Fabio BASILE (ITA) battle it out for bronze.
In the -63kg category, we have two all-European bronze contests and unfortunately one is a head to head for the Dutch team between Sanne VERMEER and Geke VAN DEN BERG. On the other side, two medallists from the Paris Grand Slam 2021, Angelika SZYMANKSA (POL) and Lucy RENSHALL (GBR) will decide who will continue their Paris record.
Perhaps the favourite for France in the -57kg category was Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE, the final piece of the puzzle in the Olympic mixed team final, however she struggled in the semi final, ultimately securing an all-French bronze medal contest against the junior superstar Faiza MOKDAR. On the other side of the draw, Priscilla GNETO will also compete for a bronze.
AN Baul (KOR) made an error in the Almada Grand Prix last week which cost him a place in the -66kg final but this week he brought his ‘A’ game and takes on YONDONPERENLEI Baskhuu (MGL). There are still chances for Europeans in the bronze contests as Lukas SAHA (FIN) will face TANAKA Ryoma (JPN) and Vazha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO) will face not only Daikii BOUBA (FRA) on the tatami but the French crowd.
Amandine BUCHARD (FRA) takes her place in the -52kg final.
Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) proves she is just as capable in the -52kg category and competes for gold.
Both the finalists in the -52kg category, Olympic finalist Amandine BUCHARD (FRA) and the -48kg Olympic champion Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) are the perfect match up today but will the French be able to hold off Kosovo’s new -52kg contender, even on home soil? After a tough semi final against SHISHIME Ai (JPN), it would appear that Buchard is on a roll but Krasniqi has been waiting for her chance to return to this category. With no mistakes from either athlete, the gold medallist is a tough call. There could be a second medal for France from Astride GNETO if she can get past world medallist, Fabienne KOCHER (SUI) and for Chelsie GILES (GBR) who sees Shishime for bronze.
France will continue their support for the lightweight women, Blandine PONT will compete for her second consecutive Paris Grand Slam bronze and Melanie LEGOUX CLEMENT will be looking for her third in the -48kg category.
Asia’s competitors have taken the lightweight final places in both the -48kg and -60kg categories, however a guaranteed bronze medal will come from Jaba PAPINASHVILI (GEO) or Karamat HUSEYNOV (AZE) as they go head to head, and in the other side, Luka MKHEIDZE (FRA) will be one to watch.
There is a potential for 16 medals for Europe on day one and we wish them best of luck for the finals which starts at 17:00 local time and can be watched at live.ijf.org.
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Author: Thea Cowen