4 February 2024


Paris Grand Slam 2024


Mihael ZGANK (TUR) is one of the most consistent athletes of the -90kg categories and so far this year, this most successful. Following an incredible gold medal win in the Portugal Grand Prix last week, Zgank celebrated his birthday this week by watching his weight whilst preparing for the most established Grand Slam on the IJF World Tour: Paris.

One by one, Zgank defeated his opponents leading in to the final against youngster of the Azerbaijan team, Eljan HAJIYEV, another stunning talent today who saw out the likes of MURAO Sanshiro (JPN) in the opening rounds. In the final however he went to the school of ne waza with Zgank who strategically turned his opponent in to osae komi before Hajiyev submitted.

So one year older, two gold medals in two weeks, must be a nice feeling to take the Paris title right after your birthday Mihael?

It’s amazing, you know one year older and only getting better! Like a good cognac! [he laughs] I had a goal to win a Grand Slam this year and to win in Paris its’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had on the IJF tour. 

The winning osae komi. © Gabi Juan

Walking on to the mat you have goosebumps, whether you compete against the French or not, people are cheering for good judo and that’s what it’s all about. Usually you have no sense of what is going on around you, I don’t hear anything but here it is impossible to ignore. During the turn I could hear the cheers growing and I thought ‘yes they want me to win!’

It’s a lot to take on events back to back, let’s alone be victorious in both, how were you feeling about the preparation for Paris?

To be honest, I wasn’t really up for it after a bad experience last year, so this week was only weight focussed and as you see, it worked out perfectly! 

In true Mihael style, there are no grand celebrations or showmanship, he is one of the most exemplary judoka on the tour,

I want to stay humble, this is part of the journey and doesn’t need too much celebration.

Time for a little rest, then on to the next one!

-90kg Podium © Gabi Juan


Author: Thea Cowen