On day one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, Italy took top spot in the medal table, doubling up on gold wins in the women’s categories, followed by Canada and France.
Assunta SCUTTO (ITA), the number one seed, and world ranked #1, defended her position by winning the -48kg category. She completed her journey to gold with a drop seoi nage against Sila ERSIN (TUR) in the first thirty seconds of the contest. There are always high expectations that come with leading a weight category in the world ranking and she continues to demonstrate that she is there to stay. As for 20 year-old Ersin, this is her first grand slam medal, let alone final. The current U23 European Champion also took a Junior World silver recently in Odivelas, Portugal going from strength to strength.
In the -60kg category, Cedric REVOL (FRA) was the European representative in the final, battling Matheus TAKAKI (BRA). In ten seconds of golden score, Takaki put in a weak attack but Revol took advantage and kept him up off the ground, lifting and going underneath to score with sumi gaeshi. Though the performance for gold was incredible, the talk is now surrounding the ranking points and how much he has managed to widen the gap between himself and team mates; Luka MKHEIDZE and Romain VALADIER PICARD.
Top seed in the -52kg weight class, Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) was forced to work, and defend, very hard against Mascha BALLHAUS (GER), narrowly escaping scores on a couple of occasions. However the experienced Olympic finalist simply bided her time, and scored with uchi mata sukashi with little over a minute left on the clock. This of course put Ballhaus against the offence but the contest management from Giuffrida is well engrained at this point and she showed her seniority. A second gold medal for Italy on day one of the competition.
The final of the -66kg category saw one of the more senior athletes, Vazha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO) take on Mukhriddin TILOVOV (UZB). To describe the contest as physical may be an understatement, and both finding it equally as hard to land a score, resulting in a shido each. The pair headed in to golden score, remaining nimble and defensive, however once Margvelashvili secured a deep grip on the belt, he executed a sumi gaeshi, scoring waza ari for the grand slam gold. It was a strong start to the year for the Georgian judoka, taking gold in the Tel Aviv Grand Slam, but a podium place has evaded him since. This was an important confidence boost before the upcoming European Championships in Montpellier.
As for the the -57kg category, Europe couldn’t boast of a finalist, however the story that continues in this category is captivating. The world ranked one and two; Christa DEGUCHI and Jessica KLIMKAIT, both of Canada, are in yet another incredible battle to reach the Olympic Games. Klimkait had a life-changing performance in the 2021 World Championships, surpassing her team mate which gave the assurance of the Tokyo Olympic Games place, but once again Deguchi is wearing the red back patch and is leading in points.
So here they were again, a head to head for some major points. In the end though, just as they carried over in to golden score, Klimkait worked tirelessly and made a point of beating Deguchi to the attack in each exchange. The current world champion picked up a third shido and ceded the contest.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2023 continues tomorrow at 10:00 local time (08:00 CEST) with the following weight categories; -63kg, -70kg, -73kg and -81kg.
Author: Thea Cowen