While the exciting Zagreb Grand Prix returns to us this week, the Croatian Judo Federation are preparing for not one major event, but two. Certainly accustomed to hosting important events, regularly at that, the federation is looking forward to seeing the senior athletes first of all, followed by the Cadet World Championships next week.
First however, focussing on the Grand Prix that will be staged on behalf of the International Judo Federation. It comes as little surprise that there is an impressive entry, in a nation which has set records for attendance at multiple levels, and this week 563 judoka from 89 nations will be competing for the 14 gold medals, not forgetting qualification points.
Croatian Federation President, Dr Sanda ČORAK is proud to have this event once again,
This is again an excellent opportunity for the Croatian Judo Federation to welcome all the judo family to Zagreb and express our hospitality to all competitors as well as sports officials and members of international delegations. The battle for positions on the IJF World Ranking List, a year before the 2024 Paris Olympic games is very fierce, but gives every judoka a fair chance to realise their dream to compete and win an Olympic medal.
As host, we would like to organise a sustainable and memorable event for all included and we will take care of every organisational aspect that can help to create a positive sporting atmosphere in our arena while also contributing to the creation of possibilities for all judo officials to meet and exchange ideas for the development of judo worldwide.
Of course the star of the show for the home crowd will be double world champion, Barbara MATIC, who also took the gold in last year’s edition. Though it mightn’t have been a fairytale end for her in the IJF Masters in Budapest, she still managed to place and will be prepared for a stunning performance, supported by her countrymen, as will team mate and the number two seed in the -70kg category, Lara CVJETKO. Further down the list in this category is Loriana KUKA (KOS) who has switched categories in this cycle and is hunting down a qualification place for Paris 2024.
As for others looking to improve their standings, Daria BILODID (UKR) jumped ten places following the Masters event and the Zagreb Grand Prix could be a great opportunity to take her first gold medal in the -57kg category on the IJF World Tour, if she can stave off the competition of course.
Looking at the -78kg category, the focus will be on the top two seeds, Germany’s Anna-Maria WAGNER and Alina BOEHM. Given their previous records, there were high hopes for the pair during the Masters however their journey ended pretty swiftly and a decision still needs to be made, who will be taking that Olympic place.
In the men’s categories, there will be no defending champions returning to Zagreb, nevertheless there are plenty of our top stars in the running. In the -66kg category we have European Champion and 2023 Paris Grand Slam winner Bogdan IADOV (UKR) chased by up-and-coming David GARCIA TORNE (ESP) who has been collecting medals this year, not to mention Elios MANZI (ITA) who is sandwiched between the pair as the number two seed.
The -81kg and -90kg look equally as tough, Masters finalist Guilherme SCHIMIDT (BRA) leads the charge to take on the likes of Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR) and former world champion Saga MUKI (ISR). In the -90kg group, Tristani MOSAKHLISHVILI (ESP) has much to prove following his win in the Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam, and though the usual suspects peak our attention including TOTH Krisztian (HUN) and Marcus NYMAN (SWE), further down the entry we have those who have come out to impress on the circuit this year; Thomas SCHARFETTER (AUT) and European silver medallist Darko BRASNJOVIC (SRB) who are yet to qualify for the Olympic Games.
The live draw will take place on the 17th of August at 14:00, which can be found at JudoTV.com, as can the three day event from the 18th until the 20th of August.
Author: Thea Cowen