As always, we love a surprise and with every great tournament, there are some younger athletes breaking through to make a name for themselves and claim glory on this big stage. Alongside these challengers, we have the original gladiators, the top seeds and defending champions.
The Paris Grand Slam attracts many top names, including the 2020 winner in the -81kg category, Matthias CASSE (BEL). The top seed fought his way in to the semi final against Somon MAKHMADBEKOV (TJK) who was not letting up. Going in to golden score, it was a shido contest and became somewhat tactical, though both continued in their to attempt to win with a throw. In a last ditch attempt, Casse almost threw with a seoi nage, forcing Makhmadbekov to pick up a third and final shido.
Unfortunately for the spectators, it was something of the same in the adjoining -81kg semi final between Zelim TCKAEV (AZE) and Francois GAUTHIER DRAPEAU (CAN) with the latter being sent to the bronze medal contest.
For the French, they were waiting for the -63kg semi finals, desperate for their heroine Clarisse AGBEGNENOU to take her place in the final, but first she needed to defeat world bronze medallist, Joanne VAN LIESHOUT (NED). Already Agbegnenou had endured a terribly long golden score against HORIKAWA Megumi (JPN), and here she was again, but this time, Van Lieshout was changing things up, coming dangerously close to a juju gatame and silencing the crowd. A timely escape from the French athlete had the arena trembling with celebration.
After a disappointing finish for Agbegnenou during the European Championships in Montpellier, she had completely transformed today, and danced with the edge of the tatami, executing an ippon scoring ura nage to take her place in her eighth Paris Grand Slam final, hunting down a seventh title to match the record of Lucie DECOSSE. Croatia are used to boasting of their -70kg athletes, and can continue doing so today, but along side these superstars comes another, Katarina KRISTO. After throwing for waza ari, Kristo secured the win on the ground against Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist YAMAGUCHI Kirari (JPN). Kristo will now take on Agbegnenou for the Paris title.
France had barely stopped their celebrations when they were able to raise the roof again, -70kg Marie Eve GAHIE spent a grand total of nine seconds on the tatami before defeating Tais PINA (POR) with a devastating o soto gari. Margaux PINOT will also compete for bronze against Pina. Though we are used to seeing Barbara MATIC (CRO) in the final, and we spoke already of the -70kg success from the double World Champion, however today it wasn’t to be. Miriam BUTKEREIT (GER) is looking for her first Grand Slam gold, though this will be her sixth final. The 29 year-old managed to work tightly on the ground and secure the osae komi against Matic for the semi final win.
In the -73kg category, only Giorgi CHIKHELIDZE (GEO) managed to make it in to the semi finals from Europe, and looking to stop him was Shakhram AKHADOV (UZB). In the first exchange, Chikhelidze scored with a strong foot sweep, immediately putting his opponent on the back foot. In the end, this initial score was enough to win his place in the gold medal contest as Akhadov simply had no answer for him. The Georgian athlete’s next challenge will be ISHIHARA Tatsuki (JPN).
Author: Thea Cowen