19 August 2023


Zagreb Grand Prix 2023


The -70kg was easily the most anticipated with the national heroes, Barbara MATIC and Lara CVJETKO going head to head in the final for home glory. Favour may have lay in favour with double world champion Matic with a 2-0 record but it seemed 21 year-old Cvjetko was in need of redemption.

Of course the pair know each other well and have even shared a historic world final so it was always going to be a hard slog for the pair, no matter how much support the fans were providing, which was a lot. Alternating chants of ‘Barbara’ and ‘Lara’, the full stands were willing on to see a big win, and what looked like a contest that may end in penalties, took a quick turn. Cvjetko attacked with o uchi gari and drove Matic back in golden score for a colossal win. 

Lara CVJETKO (CRO) © Carlos Ferreira

In true and beautiful judo style, the pair celebrated each other on the tatami, and posed in the exact same way as the world final, undoubtedly not their last. 

The opening weight category was the -63kg on the second day of the Zagreb Grand Prix which was full of ballistic technique, carefully crafted ne waza and an injury which could have ended the road to gold for one finalist. 

In this opener was the only world ranked number one competing in the Zagreb Grand Prix 2023, Lucy RENSHALL, and she made her way through her quarter of the draw with strong ne waza before facing home favourite, Iva OBERAN (CRO), who took her in to golden score. She continued against former British representative Lubjana PIOVESANA, now of Austria, taking the win by shidos. Finally, her ultimate opponent was 22 year-old KIM Jisu (KOR), this years Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam winner. 

Lucy RENSHALL (GBR) © Carlos Ferreira

Going head to head for 11 minutes and 40 seconds may sound difficult enough, but during this time Renshall had suffered a painful injury to the face and was removed form the tatami for medical treatment as well as to change her judogi. Upon returning it was a stalemate which resulted in a shido win for the British athlete, despite the obstruction to her breathing. 

In the end, though all flying different flags now, there were three original Great Britain athletes on the podium including Mexico’s Prisca AWITI ALCARAZ. 

Ultimately the biggest surprise of the day came in the form of Jorge CANO GARCIA of Spain. The 27 year old is ranked #136 in the -73kg category, yet ended the top seed, Mark HRISTOV’s journey to gold with an explosive ura nage. Already his best result given this was his first chance to compete in the final block on the IJF World Tour, he went in to the final against Messaoud Redouane DRIS (ALG) with nothing to lose. 

Jorge CANO GARCIA (ESP) © Carlos Ferreira

This turned out to be yet another entertaining contest but in the end, Cano had perfect timing, attacking with o soto gari and even changing from a double to single sleeve grip to really push his opponent to the ground for the ippon win. 

In true and beautiful judo style, the pair celebrated each other on the tatami, and posed in the exact same way as the world final, undoubtedly not their last. 

Concluding the day in the -81kg category was former world champion, Saga MUKI (ISR) and Medickson DEL ORBE CORTORREAL (DOM). Muki had dominated his preliminary rounds but was challenged for the first time by his final opponent and even ceded a score in the first half of the contest. In the final minute he executed his signature sode tsuri komi goshi for an ippon and claim Europe’s final gold.

Sagi MUKI (ISR) © Carlos Ferreira

For Europe this was a tremendous day and a clean sweep with the gold medals, taking ten in total, and still leading the medal table are the team of Spain. Tomorrow is the third and final day of competition here in the Zagreb Grand Prix, addressing the remaining weight categories; -90kg, -78kg, -100kg, +78kg and +100kg, beginning at 09:30 local time. Watch live at JudoTV.com.


Author: Thea Cowen