We have all of the male number one seeds preparing to compete this week in the IJF Masters event for the maximum 1800 ranking points.
Of course it isn’t only the top seeds that the focus is on, in the -60kg category we will miss the current world champion, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP), but instead Europe will look to Azeri duo at #2 and #6, Balabay AGHAYEV and Turan BAYRAMOV. The latter is the junior of the two but has been steadily climbing and showed his abilities during the recent world championships against the likes of TAKATO Naohisa (JPN), coming close to a major win.
Outwith the seeding of the -66kg category, the likes of David GARCIA TORNE (ESP) has been devastating his opponents on the circuit, securing Grand Prix and Grand Slam titles. Garcia’s victory in Upper Austria including a five-second ippon against number one seed, Denis VIERU (MDA) who will make a point not to underestimate this opponent again, though he has plenty to be aware of with Olympic medallist Vazha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO) and Walide KHYAR (FRA) following close behind, let alone the Asian assault.
Daniel CARGNIN (BRA) stepped up immediately following the Tokyo Games in to the -73kg category and took the Masters title in December, defeating Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO) and Nils STUMP (SUI) on his way to glory, which leaves a question mark in this category for Europe, can they take it back? Former world champion TSEND-OCHIR Tsogtbaatar (MGL) also lies within the field of top contenders with Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) and Manuel LOMBARDO (ITA).
Though it feels like a tale as old as time, the -81kg category continues to look at the top two athletes; Tato GRIGALASHVILI (GEO) and Matthias CASSE (BEL), though in their most recent world final, the Georgian appeared to have put a wider gap between the pair with a more convincing win. However, in last years Masters event, Casse came out on top, defeating #3 seed Saeid MOLLAEI (AZE) in the final with an incredible transfer in ne waza. On the outside, current Olympic champion, NAGASE Takanori (JPN) poses a threat to the seeding.
As for the -90kg category, little speculation can be made as to the result of the podium based on the ranking of the athletes, the talent and ability goes right through the entry, from former world champion Davlat BOBONOV (UZB) to Axel CLERGET (FRA) who astonishingly is at number #35 in the world ranking, demonstrating just how tough this category is. Though eyes will be on Olympic champion Lasha BEKAURI (GEO), the home crowd will be rooting for TOTH Krisztian (HUN) as well as up and coming Tristani MOSAKHLISHVILI (ESP), a worthy replacement for double world champion Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI. Last year it was a surprise result from Alexis MATHIEU (FRA) to take the silver medal and make a sudden jump up the rankings, will we see another to keep the tradition going?
Similarly, the -100kg category poses the same problem, or perhaps lack-thereof, making for an exciting day of competition. Ilia SULAMANIDZE (GEO) leads the charge and will be hoping to redeem his world championship performance and retain his Masters title from Jerusalem, but he will also be dealing with the return of Jorge FONSECA (POR) and Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) who have slipped down the ranking and will undoubtedly cause problems, not to mention WOLF Aaron (JPN) and double Olympic champion Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) even further down the list, the latter hoping to qualify in two categories for Paris 2024.
It will certainly be a tough campaign for the European athletes in the +100kg category, only Ushangi KOKAURI (AZE) is within the seeding, with the nearest being Guram TUSHISHVILI (GEO), ironically the pair were in the final of the 2018 world championships in Baku and five years later continue to be front runners. In this particular category, there is an influx of younger competitors; SIPOCZ Richard (HUN), Gela ZAALISHVILI (GEO), Losseni KONE (GER), Munir ERTUG (TUR) and Saba INANEISHVILI (GEO), all of which have a great chance at breaking through the barrier that is the seeded athletes.
Author: Thea Cowen