2 May 2024


Dushanbe Grand Prix 2024


The Senior European Judo Championships 2024 may have just come to a close, with title holders picking up 700 points in contribution to their world ranking positions, but many have already began their voyage to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, for the upgraded Grand Slam event, offering a potential 1000 points to the gold medallists.

As per the IJF World Judo Tour, we are now in the final three qualifying events offering the major points, however, there are still five continental open events before the cut off date of June 23rd. Now these may offer minor points, but for those on the cusp of qualification, or matching rivals by tiny margins, this could answer the question of whether or not they will go to Paris 2024.

Firstly, let’s look to Dushanbe and the plethora of athletes descending upon the country’s capital. We have 390 athletes from 65 nations will be compering over the three-day event between May 3rd and 5th and the draw is LIVE. As always there will be some greatly anticipated head to heads, and many looking for redemption.

In Zagreb, Muhammed DEMIREL (TUR) showed the world what he was capable of, and secured an incredible silver medal int he -66kg category, so will be motivated this week to keep the ball rolling, however he will quickly come head to head with France’s Olympic pick, Walide KHYAR in the quarter final. Elios MANZI (ITA) took the bronze in the same category, defeating his team mate for the medal, but is still slightly behind, less than 150 points separating them, he will be hoping to jump ahead and widen the gap on day one.

Milica NIKOLIC (SRB) came very close to success in Zagreb, but the -48kg bronze medal only just evaded her, yet was still a great performance, and she will certainly be motivated to take a medal in Dushanbe. The -52kg top seed is Mascha BALLHAUS this week, and has snapped up some important results in the run up to Paris 2024, placing her in good positioning. Another name jumping out in this category is Sofia ASVESTA (CYP). Though she concluded in 5th place, there were huge celebrations for the Cypriot delegation, and of course it is one step closer to an Olympic dream.

The -57kg category is pretty stacked with talent, lead by Jessica KLIMKAIT (CAN), Europe are sending a strong force; Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE (FRA), Pauline STARKE (GER), Veronica TONIOLO (ITA) and thankfully, Telma MONTEIRO (POR). The latter looked to be struggling with her return to competition and withdrew during a contest in Zagreb, fortunately, it was a minor set back and she is back on the road.

We will once again see the Swiss World Champion, Nils STUMP in action in the -73kg as top seed. Since his title win, Stump has struggled to find his way back to the podium, perhaps this week the tides will change.

In the -63kg category, Lubjana PIOVESANA (AUT) is coming in as the top seed, and will be joined by Paris and Antalya Grand Slam medallist, Katarina KRISTO (CRO), Mexico’s Prisca AWITI ALCARAZ as top contenders. Austria continue their dominance in the -70kg category with Michaela POLLERES leading the group, but with some missing following a packed entry in Zagreb, this could be a good opportunity for those bordering on points. It may be a tricky time for the German team, Miriam BUTKEREIT was another who was forced to withdraw based on injury, potentially reopening the window for Giovanna SCOCCIMARRO.

With many big champions suffering early round defeats in Zagreb, it could be a great thing that they’re back in competition straight away to push it to the back of their minds and move on, one of those was the defending European Champion Nemanja MAJDOV (SRB). He does however, have the Olympic silver medallist, Eduard TRIPPEL in his quarter which could be a very interesting match up.

Zlatko KUMRIC (CRO) © Gabi Juan

There won’t be a Canadian battle in the -100kg, as Shady ELNAHAS is taking a breather, he had jumped in front of team mate Kyle REYES with results in Tbilisi and Antalya, however the race is not over. Last week we celebrated Zlatko KUMRIC (CRO) at home as he defeated current World Champion, Arman ADAMIAN (AIN) and Michael KORREL (NED), garnering plenty of attention, but it was a bittersweet ending with a 5th place finish. He is bouncing back this week, no doubt fuelled with confidence from this performance.

Temur RAKHIMOV is Tajikistan’s golden hope in the men’s heavyweight +100kg category, however he will have some extremely tough competition. In his quarter he has Türkiye’s Ibrahim TATAROGLU, but further afield he could face former European Champion who has had a small break since Antalya, Martti PUUMALAINEN (FIN). Teddy RINER (FRA) is a big name on the books and in his quarter is Losseni KONE (GER), one who gave him a great contest in the Paris Grand Slam.

As for the -78kg category, Anna Maria WAGNER (GER) was considering taking her foot off the pedal, but it looks like she has reconsidered, not willing to risk allowing team mate Alina BOEHM to over take her as we approach the close of qualification next month. In the +78kg category, Milica ZABIC (SRB) will still be on a high following Team Serbia’s Mixed Team bronze medal accomplishment, however leading the group is Asya TAVANO (ITA), the Baku silver and Tbilisi bronze medallist.

Follow the event on JudoTV.com.

Author: Thea Cowen