2 February 2024


Paris Grand Slam 2024


Often, the coaches and athletes are interrogated, with us mere outsiders desperate to know the feeling of walking out in to the Accor Arena (formerly the Bercy as most know it) for the Paris Grand Slam. We look for the nerves, the excitement, the anticipation, the honour some feel to be in this legendary tournament and in with a chance to hear the crowd erupt if they were to be victorious. Then there is the third person. The first to enter, is the referee. The Paris Grand Slam is renowned for many things, but one thing in particular is the knowledgable and passionate crowd who carry their athletes throughout the event, and today was no different. In the -66kg category, it was for Walide KHYAR.

Already MARUYAMA Joshiro (JPN) opened the tournament with a tough first round opponent, 2016 Olympic Champion, Fabio BASILE (ITA). After this, Gusman KYRGYZBAYEV (KAZ), and it didn’t get much easier in the round of 16 as he was dealt Walide KHYAR (FRA). Immediately it was an aggressive head to head, Khyar believing that applying pressure would be the key to his success, and both put a score on the board, as well as two shidos. This only lead to further aggression, on and off the tatami with the excitable French crowd rallying for their athlete, however the will of the public did not deter the referee on the tatami, Lubomir PETR, from standing his ground and applying the rules.

You’re completely concentrated on the tatami when you’re out there, and you know at this level, we’ve been refereeing for many many hours, analysing videos, had numerous seminars, so for me, I don’t really pay attention too much to the calls from coaches or the crowd. We really try and go it alone, we have the commission but they’re confident that we can make the correct decision and of course if they want to look at something they will let us know.

The home crowd, who were desperate for a win from Khyar, possibly whipped him up in to such a frenzy, and feeling the external pressure, the French athlete lost his composure, allowing for Maruyama to take back control of this hectic head to head. Both taped up, it was just a matter of time until a score came, and after multiple threats, teasing the Bercy, Maruyama executed a perfect uchi mata to silence the space. Despite Maruyama being arguably one of the people’s heroes, today he very much became the villain of the story with this win.


Author: Thea Cowen