Thursday, July 24, 2014

Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014 - DAY 1

(Via IJF)

-48kg | -52kg | -57kg | -60kg | -66kg 

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games produced a gripping spectacle on the opening day at the SECC Hall on Thursday.

The three-day judo competition, which will feature 185 judoka from 35 countries, opened with the women’s -48kg, -52kg and -57kg categories and men’s -60kg and -66kg categories exciting fans at the teeming venue.

Judo has returned to the Commonwealth programme for the first time since Manchester 2002 and the sense of excitement and anticipation was visible on Thursday as judoka, officials and fans lapped up the warm Scottish welcome. 

IJF Hall of Famer and 10th Dan Mr. George KERR CBE was among the special guests in attendance on day one and the Scot was more than encouraged by the opening day.

“Judo was one of biggest sports in terms of participation of nations in London 2012 and it’s crucial to build on this and constantly develop the sport in all nations," said the former European champion.

"This growth has not just happened recently, this is the fruition of a long-term ideal by IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opening day, there’s been excitement, surprises and something for everyone. The presentation of the sport is key for judo to reach new audiences and I think that has been well taken care of here in Glasgow.”

England fielded judoka in four of the five categories and boasted a return of three gold medals and one silver to top the medal podium while hosts Scotland won two of the three women’s gold medals to secure second place.

On Friday, the high octane judo action continues in Glasgow as the women’s -63kg and -70kg categories along with the men’s -73kg and -81kg categories will enter the spotlight at the SECC Hall.   



-48kg: Hosts Scotland strike first     

Rome European Open bronze medallist Kimberley RENICKS (SCO) made the perfect start for Scotland as she won the first gold medal of the competition by defeating Junior Asian Championships bronze medallist Shushila LIKMABAM (IND). LIKMABAM impressed in the preliminary rounds but had to try and step up another level against RENICKS who initiated a wave of patriotic hope for Scotland. RENICKS brought the crowd to their feet by catching her opponent with a ko-uchi-gari for ippon after LIKMABAM had twice been penalised for going out of the area. 

In the first semi-final contest LIKMABAM (IND) overpowered the plucky 17-year-old Oceania Championships winner Chloe RAYNER (AUS). LIKMABAM, who is part of a 14-strong Indian team, held down her teenage rival with a mune-gatame for ippon after two and a half minutes. In the second semi-final the home fans roared in approval as Kimberley RENICKS (SCO) surged past 2013 World Judo Championships competitor Onoh-Obasi OKEY (BAR) in just 39 seconds. London European Cup bronze medallist RENICKS won with a juji-gatame as OKEY had no choice but to submit. 

The first bronze medal was awarded to Apia Oceania Open bronze medallist Amy MEYER (AUS) who saw off  losing semi-finalist OKEY. The rivals, who were fighting to win the first judo medal of the Games, exchanged shido penalties and OKEY crucially conceded a shido final in the final minute for a false attack which left her with three shido penalties which was one more than MEYER. The second bronze medal was won by RAYNER who ensured a clean sweep of the -48kg bronze medals for Australia. RAYNER had the measure of 19-year-old Marcelle MONABANG (CMR) by a waza-ari score and never looked in danger as she doubled her country’s medal haul.                

RENICKS, Kimberley (SCO) vs LIKMABAM, Shushila (IND)                              

Bronze Medal Fights
OKEY, Onoh-Obasi (BAR) vs MEYER, Amy (AUS)             
RAYNER, Chloe (AUS) vs MONABANG, Marcelle (CMR)                                               

Final Results
1. RENICKS, Kimberley (SCO)                                       
2. LIKMABAM, Shushila (IND)                                                            
3. MEYER, Amy (AUS)                                                     
3. RAYNER, Chloe (AUS)                                              
5. OKEY, Onoh-Obasi (BAR)                                    
5. MONABANG, Marcelle (CMR)                                       
7. CHINDELE, Abigail (ZAM)             
7. KAVANAGH, Chanel (NZL)                   

-52kg: Double delight for Scotland's RENICKS sisters

Buenos Aires Pan American Open silver medallist Louise RENICKS (SCO) doubled the gold medal tally of her nation and her family as she followed her sister and -48kg winner Kimberley RENICKS by winning the -52kg title against London 2012 Olympian Kelly EDWARDS (ENG). Louise RENICKS, 31, made it two successive gold medals for Scotland’s high-flying women by winning a tense battle of shido penalties. EDWARDS received two shido penalties for false attacks before both judoka were penalised for passivity. RENICKS infringed again for passivity and going out of the area before EDWARDS was disqualified for receiving a fourth and final shido for passivity in the closing seconds. 

In the first semi-final RENICKS showed her grit by outworking Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Kalpana THOUDAM (IND) with an industrious display. The Scottish fighter was unable to trouble the scoreboard but her superior workrate led her to victory as the highly-capable THOUDAM was penalised for a false attack and passivity while RENICKS was penalised once for a false attack. The second semi-final was a battle between former -48kg judoka and London 2012 Olympians Lisa KEARNEY (NIR) and Kelly EDWARDS (ENG). Port Louis African Open winner KEARNEY (NIR) was undone in golden score as EDWARDS (ENG) received the nod when her opponent received a shido for passivity after 81 seconds of added time.

The first bronze medal was clinched by KEARNEY who submitted San Salvador Pan American Open silver medallist Audree FRANCIS-METHOT (CAN). KEARNEY, who is based in Edinburgh, forced the 21-year-old Canadian to tap out to an armbar. The second bronze medal was won by THOUDAM who outfought African Championships silver medallist Christianne LEGENTIL (MRI) who finished seventh at the London 2012 Olympics. LEGENTIL was lethargic and lacked purpose which saw her receive two shido penalties for passivity and a third for a false attack while THOUDAM only infringed on two occasions.              

RENICKS, Louise (SCO) vs EDWARDS, Kelly (ENG)   

Bronze Medal Fights
THOUDAM, Kalpana (IND) vs LEGENTIL, Christianne (MRI)           
KEARNEY, Lisa (NIR) vs FRANCIS-METHOT, Audree (CAN)                                           

Final Results
1. RENICKS, Louise (SCO)      
2. EDWARDS, Kelly (ENG)                                  
3. KEARNEY, Lisa (NIR)                                            
3. THOUDAM, Kalpana (IND)                                          
5. FRANCIS-METHOT, Audree (CAN)                                            
5. LEGENTIL, Christianne (MRI)                                                 
7. MVA, Sinothando (RSA)              
7. TROTTER, Hannah (AUS)                                 

-57kg: England's DAVIS stops Scotland and INGLIS

Madrid European Open winner Nekoda DAVIS (ENG) stopped Scotland’s quest to win all three women’s gold medals on day one by denying multiple-time European Cup medallist Stephanie INGLIS (SCO). DAVIS, 21, went ahead with a yuko and added a waza-ari from an uchi-mata before holding INGLIS with a kesa-gatame for 15 seconds to seal a fine victory by wazari-awasette-ippon.      

In the first semi-final INGLIS resisted African Championships bronze medallist Paule SITCHEPING (CMR) in a cagey contest where both infringed repeatedly. SITCHEPING lost out as she received three shido penalties while INGLIS, whose fans held banners aloft all day long, was penalised twice. The second semi-final featured two of the most promising young judoka in the category as Cadet world champion Jessica KLIMKAIT (CAN) went toe-to-toe with Junior European Championships bronze medallist DAVIS. Both judoka failed to break the deadlock as their defensive prowess was on display. DAVIS pulled out the victory in golden score after two minutes of additional time as the Canadian received a shido for passivity.

The first bronze medal was won by 21-year-old Oceania Championships gold medallist Darcina MANUEL (NZL) who strangled 17-year-old KLIMKAIT to face the teenager to submit and concede the contest. The second bronze medal was won by Sarajevo European Cup silver medallist Connie RAMSAY (SCO) who held down SITCHEPING for 20 seconds and ippon after taking the lead with a yuko from a uki-goshi. The Cameroon fighter had started brightly by momentarily trapping the Scot to the tatami with a kami-shiho-gatame but RAMSAY escaped after just four seconds. 
INGLIS, Stephanie (SCO) vs DAVIS, Nekoda (ENG)                                               

Bronze Medal Fights
KLIMKAIT, Jessica (CAN) vs MANUEL, Darcina (NZL)  
SITCHEPING, Paule (CMR) vs RAMSAY, Connie (SCO)                        

Final Results
1. DAVIS, Nekoda (ENG)                                                                 
2. INGLIS, Stephanie (SCO)                            
3. MANUEL, Darcina (NZL)                                       
3. RAMSAY, Connie (SCO)                  
5. KLIMKAIT, Jessica (CAN)                                           
5. SITCHEPING, Paule (CMR)                
7. SYLVA, Sarah (MRI)             
7. POWELL, Kirsty (WAL)                                  


-60kg: England's MCKENZIE earns gold 

Havana Grand Prix bronze medallist Ashley MCKENZIE (ENG) won Commonwealth Games gold with victory over a game Navjot CHANA (IND) in the -60kg final. England’s gold medal favourite MCKENZIE was pushed by CHANA in an eventful contest where both judoka traded scores and shido penalties. CHANA had three shido penalties to his name after just two minutes but responded by countering an ashi-waza attack to take the lead with a waza-ari. MCKENZIE maintained his composure and produced a waza-ari of his own as the contest was settled on shido penalties with only one against London’s leading light.         

In the first semi-final former European bronze medallist MCKENZIE (ENG) bested Port Louis African Open runner-up Neuso SIGAUQUE (MOZ) by ippon. Explosive Englishman and gold medal favourite MCKENZIE had defeated wily Scottish technician John BUCHANAN (SCO) by yuko in a fascinating quarter-final which captivated the crowd. MCKENZIE and BUCHANAN, two of the best supported athletes in the competition, shared a heartfelt embrace in the centre of the tatami as their mutual respect was there for all to see. In the second semi-final Navjot CHANA (IND) threw Port Louis African Open winner Daniel LE GRANGE (RSA) for waza-ari and earned the same score by holding the South African down for 15 seconds to win by wazari-awasette-ippon.

The first bronze medal was claimed by BUCHANAN, 38, who had his very own tartan army wearing ‘Team Buchanan’ shirts in the stands. 2001 world bronze medallist BUCHANAN stepped out of a 10-year retirement last year to fight his way into contention for this event and completed a remarkable fairytale by defeating beaten semi-finalist LE GRANGE with an uchi-mata earning ippon after three minutes. The Scottish veteran celebrated with a backflip on the mat and holding the Scottish flag aloft to the delight of the home fans. The second bronze medal went to 26-year-old Razak ABUGIRI (GHA) from Accra who produced a clinical display as he went ahead with a waza-ari and sealed victory by ippon against an overwhelmed SIGAUQUE.   
MCKENZIE, Ashley (ENG) vs CHANA, Navjot (IND)                    

Bronze Medal Fights
LE GRANGE, Daniel (RSA) vs BUCHANAN, John (SCO)               
SIGAUQUE, Neuso (MOZ) vs ABUGIRI, Razak (GHA)                                                                

Final Result
1. MCKENZIE, Ashley (ENG)                                              
2. CHANA, Navjot (IND)                         
3. BUCHANAN, John (SCO)                                                   
3. ABUGIRI, Razak (GHA)                                             
5. LE GRANGE, Daniel (RSA)                                                    
5. SIGAUQUE, Neuso (MOZ)                                                         
7. AGUDOO, Dominic (GHA)               
7. DODGE, Brandon (WAL)               

-66kg: OATES makes it two from two for England's men  

Baku Grand Slam winner Colin OATES (ENG) had too much quality for Games of the Small States winner Andreas KRASSAS (CYP) in the -60kg final. OATES scored a yuko from a sumi-gaeshi after teasing a uchi-mata attack and, ever the opportunist, immediately worked an opening on the ground as he pulled back on the arm of KRASSAS who swiftly submitted. 

In the first semi-final OATES, who will be fighting for Great Britain at August’s World Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia, defeated his training partner and former British champion James MILLAR (SCO). OATES opened the scoring with a waza-ari and controlled MILLAR on the ground to pin him with a tate-shiho-gatame to win by wazari-awasette-ippon. In the second semi-final KRASSAS downed former African Championships bronze medallist Siyabulela MABULU (RSA) by a solitary yuko score to guarantee a medal for Cyprus.

The first bronze medal was won by beaten semi-finalist MABULU who returned to winning ways against Lusophony Games (teams from Portuguese-speaking countries and territories) bronze medallist Manjeet NANDAL (IND). MABULU won by shido penalties in a scoreless contest as NANDAL was held accountable for negative gripping and twice for passivity which was one more infringement than the winner.                    
The second bronze medal contest went the way of MILLAR as he defeated Mathews PUNZA (ZAM) who finished fifth at the 2013 African Championships. MILLAR, who was a late replacement for the injured -100kg fighter James AUSTIN, made his opportunity count by throwing the Zambian fighter for ippon with 47 seconds remaining. 

OATES, Colin (ENG) vs KRASSAS, Andreas (CYP)                        
Bronze Medal Fights
MABULU, Siyabulela (RSA) vs NANDAL, Manjeet (IND)                  
MILLAR, James (SCO) vs PUNZA, Mathews (ZAM)                                 

Final Result
1. OATES, Colin (ENG)                                       
2. KRASSAS, Andreas (CYP)                              
3. MABULU, Siyabulela (RSA)                               
3. MILLAR, James (SCO)                             
5. NANDAL, Manjeet (IND)                                                                              
5. PUNZA, Mathews (ZAM)                                                         
7. LUZIA, Bruno (MOZ)
7. NAMA ETOGA, Dieudonne (CMR)                               


10:00 – 15:00 Preliminaries on two mats
18:00 – 20:45 Final block on one tatami

Women: -63kg, -70kg
Men: -73kg, -81kg

10:00 – 15:00 Preliminaries on two mats
18:00 – 20:45 Final block on one tatami

Women: -78kg, +78kg
Men: -90kg, -100kg, +100kg

Location: SECC Hall 3

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014 - PREVIEW

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games features the long-awaited return of judo to the programme as the hosts look for inspiration from Team Scotland flagbearer and double world bronze medallist Euan BURTON.

Judo is one of the hottest tickets in town at the SECC Hall from Thursday 24 to Saturday 27 July as the Olympic and Paralympic sport is set to take centre stage in Scotland.

The Commonwealth Games programme has 10 core sports and the hosts select seven additional sports which will be contested. Scotland, who have long been a key force behind Team GB judo, selected judo to join the list of core sports in Glasgow to great fanfare and have entered a 14-strong team brimming with quality.

Judo returns to the Commonwealth programme for the first time since Manchester 2002 where the hosts England dominated with a 13-medal haul including eight gold, four silver and one bronze.

England’s +78kg gold medallist Simone CALLENDER takes her expertise off the tatami this time around as the Judo Manager for the Games.

Scotland are one of four nations who can call on a full team of 14 athletes as Cameroon, England and India have all arrived for the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games aiming to hit the medal trail.

Former European champion Sarah CLARK (SCO) took silver in Manchester and the 36-year-old is one of the most experienced and accomplished judoka in the field. Double world bronze medallist BURTON (SCO) will bring his illustrious career to an end when he fights on Friday in front of a sell-out crowd.  

IJF Technical Delegate Densign WHITE speaks ahead of the Official Draw at the Main Press Centre

The draw took place at the Main Press Centre on Tuesday as the 185 judoka and 35 nations discovered who they will face when the competition starts on Thursday.

Scotland's IJF Hall of Famer and 10th Dan, Mr. George KERR CBE, was the special guest of the International Judo Federation.

British Judo Association President KERR said: “It’s great to be here in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, it’s a pleasure to see you all and there’s a great amount of excitement. Athletes have not just been selected, they have been picked because you think they can win.

“If you don’t think you can win then you shouldn’t be here. It’s a great honour to represent your country, I think it’s the finest honour someone can have. I hope you all represent your nation with pride and make yourself proud because we’re all proud of you.”

Mr. Densign WHITE, IJF Technical Delegate for the Commonwealth Games, said: “The International Judo Federation is working hard to develop judo in all nations and this event serves as a platform for Commonwealth nations to show exactly what they are capable off and to learn from this experience.

“Manchester 2002 was the last occasion where we saw judo on the Commonwealth programme and it’s a really positive note for the sport and all the participating countries.”  




Home judoka Kimberley RENICKS (SCO) will be the favourite in the lightest category of the competition as she’s tasked with bringing home her country’s first medal in a youthful looking category. Rome European Open bronze medallist RENICKS is one of nine judoka in the category including 19-year-old Junior African Championships bronze medallist Abigail CHINDELE (ZAM) and 17-year-old Oceania Championships winner Chloe RAYNER (AUS). 


Apia Oceania Open bronze medallist Hannah TROTTER (AUS) is the top seed in the -52kg category which features a host of names who are active on the IJF World Judo Tour. Kalpana THOUDAM (IND) took bronze at the Tashkent Grand Prix last year while Port Louis African Open winner Lisa KEARNEY (NIR) registered seventh-place finishes at the Baku Grand Slam and Havana Grand Prix recently. 


Scotland field Connie RAMSAY (SCO) and Stephanie INGLIS (SCO) in the -57kg category but they will have to take on a versatile field featuring judoka such as Cadet world champion Jessica KLIMKAIT (CAN). Madrid European Open winner Nekoda DAVIS (ENG) and Oceania Champioships winner Darcina MANUEL (NZL) will compete along with the Bahamas’ first judo Youth Olympian Cynthia RAHMING (BAH). 


Sarajevo European Cup winner Katharina HAECKER (AUS) is tasked with arguably the toughest pool as she waits to face the winner of the intriguing opening round contest between former Cadet European champion Katie-Jemima YEATS-BROWN (ENG) and African Championships bronze medallist Szandra SZOGEDI (GHA). Canadian Championships winner Beatrice VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) will hope that a confident performance can accelerate her development as she aims to follow the accomplishments of her older brother and Olympic bronze medallist Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER. 


World number five Sally CONWAY (SCO) is the highest ranked judoka in the competition and will be a picture of confidence when she battles as one of Team Scotland’s leading gold medal hopes. Baku Grand Slam silver medallist CONWAY will have been meticulous in her preparation and studied potential opponents such as the fast-rising teen Monika BURGESS (CAN) who finished fifth at the Havana Grand Prix. Madrid European Open bronze medallist Megan FLETCHER (ENG), 17-year-old Cadet African Championships bronze medallist Memory ZIKHALE (BOT) and Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Sunibala HUIDROM (IND) also see action in Glasgow. 


Olympic silver medallist Gemma GIBBONS (ENG) has the change to make an impression on home soil after leaving an indelible mark at London 2012. Rijeka Grand Prix bronze medallist GIBBONS will expect an eventual showdown with British teammate and her rival in the race for Rio 2016 as Natalie POWELL (WAL) leads Team Wales’ challenge on the tatami. San Salvador Pan American Open bronze medallist Ana Laura PORTUONDO (CAN) and long-time IJF World Judo Tour competitor Jina Devi CHONGTHAM (IND) will aim to outshine their rivals in Scotland. 


Former Moscow Grand Slam bronze medallist Sarah ADLINGTON (SCO) will battle in a seven-strong category on Saturday. Coimbra Junior European Cup winner Jodie MYERS (ENG) will aim to make a breakthrough on the senior stage as the 19-year-old goes for glory for Team England. Former national champion Rajwinder KAUR (IND), multiple-time Junior European Cup medallist Sophie VAILLANCOURT (CAN) and Sri Lanka’s national champion Sachini WEWITA WIDANALAGE (SRI) will aim to spring a surprise. 



Former European bronze medallist Ashley MCKENZIE (ENG) is one of the highest profile judoka in the competition and will anticipate a meeting with 38-year-old John BUCHANAN (SCO) who has staged a remarkable comeback since returning last year having retired in 2004. Former British champion Brandon DODGE (WAL), Port Louis African Open winner Daniel LE GRANGE (RSA) and Oceania Championships gold medallist Tom PAPPAS (AUS) have the potential to return to the tatami to grace the medal podium at the end of day one. 


Baku Grand Slam winner Colin OATES (ENG) has world and Olympic honours in his sights and will see the competition as ideal preparation for August’s World Championships. OATES won European Open gold in Glasgow last year and will expect to top the podium on Thursday. Wroclaw Junior European Cup silver medallist Antoine BOUCHARD (CAN), double Welsh Open bronze medallist Alex AMOAKO (GHA) and former British champion James MILLAR (SCO) are among the 25-strong field in the -66kg category. 


Ghana’s first Olympic judoka Emmanuel NARTEY (GHA) is one of his country’s top medal hopes in the Commonwealth Games. The London 2012 Olympian, who won the Port Louis African Open last year, will be in action alongside his training partner at Bath University as Jan GOSIEWSKI (ENG) joins London 2012 Olympian Danny WILLIAMS (ENG) on England duty in the -73kg category. Jacques VAN ZYL (RSA), the youngest South African to win Africa Championships gold and former Caribbean Championships bronze medallist Kyle MAXWELL (BAR) will also fight on Friday. 


Craig EWERS (WAL) is the most experienced judoka in Wales’ 10-strong team and will be confident of winning honours in Glasgow. EWERS, 33, a long-time fixture at major events in the British team, stepped out of retirement this year with the Commonwealth Games in mind and has the quality to make his comeback count on Friday. Fiji’s London 2012 Olympic flagbearer Josateki NAULU (FIJ), a regular face on the IJF World Judo Tour, finished seventh at the Miami Grand Prix last year and will fight to translate his continental results in Commonwealth success. Cadet world champion Louis KRIEBER-GAGNON (CAN) is a special talent and could earn his first significant senior medal in Glasgow.  


Apia Oceania Open winner Mark ANTHONY (AUS) famously upset Georgian kingpin Varlam LIPARTELIANI at the London 2012 Olympics before losing out to eventual bronze medallist Ilias ILIADIS. ANTHONY always rises to the occasion and can match anyone on his day. Buenos Aires Pan American Open gold medallist Matthew PURSSEY (SCO) will be a formidable prospect with the crowd firmly on his side at the SECC. Port Louis African Open runner-up Victor AHIAVOR (GHA) and 20-year-old Isaac BEZZINA (MLT), who is part of a three-strong Malta team, will also be in action. 


Former Tokyo Grand Slam winner Euan BURTON (SCO) is hoping for a fitting farewell as he dons his judogi in competition for the final time. BURTON, 35, who was long the standard bearer on the tatami for Team GB, is competing in the -100kg category having made the considerable leap from the -81kg category after the London 2012 Olympics. Scottish Open silver medallist Christopher GEORGE (TTO) will fly the flag for Trinidad and Tobago as the country’s only representative on the tatami to break new ground as the highest profile competition to feature a judoka from the twin island country. 


Apia Oceania silver medallist Jake ANDREWARTHA (AUS) is one of his country’s top judo hopes and will aim to win the final gold medal on Sunday. ANDREWARTHA, who fought at the 2013 World Judo Championships, will face opposition from judoka such as Havana Grand Prix runner-up Chris SHERRINGTON (SCO) who will be fancied to thrill the Scottish supporters. South East Asian Games bronze medallist Muhammad Ruzaini ABDUL RAZAK (MAS) will campaign for Malaysia as part of a three-strong team. 

10:00 – 15:00 Preliminaries on two mats
18:00 – 20:45 Final block on one tatami

Women: -48kg, -52kg, -57kg 
Men: -60kg, -66kg 

10:00 – 15:00 Preliminaries on two mats
18:00 – 20:45 Final block on one tatami

Women: -63kg, -70kg
Men: -73kg, -81kg

10:00 – 15:00 Preliminaries on two mats
18:00 – 20:45 Final block on one tatami

Women: -78kg, +78kg
Men: -90kg, -100kg, +100kg

Location: SECC Hall 3

2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships Preview - 60kg

There’s no question the top favorite in the -60kg division is Japan’s Naohisa Takato whose last defeat in the IJF world circuit was more than two years ago at the 2012 Dusseldorf Grand Prix.

Since then, he has crushed all challengers. Along the way, he has picked up six IJF World Tour titles and a World Championship title as well.

Principally a left-handed player, his main techniques are yoko-sutemi, which he does to his left, kouchi-gari which he attacks with his left leg, and two right-sided techniques in the form of sode-tsuri-komi-goshi and a very special utsuri-goshi where he hoists his opponent up in the air before coming in with a massive hip throw. He doesn't seem to like newaza much but with his awesome throwing capabilities, he doesn't have to rely on groundwork to win.

Top challengers would be Georgia’s Amiran Papinashvili, Russia’s BeslanMudranov and Mongolia’s Ganbat Boldbaatar, the last player to have beaten him in the IJF world circuit. It's worth noting that he's beaten all of them in the past two years or so; and he has also defeated Olympic champion Arsen Galstyan, most recently in the final of the 2014 Tyumen Grand Slam. He is a firm favorite in this category.