Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zagreb Grand Prix 2015 - PREVIEW

(Via IJF)

The IJF World Judo Tour has arrived in Croatia for the country’s third and most anticipated Grand Prix with a record-breaking entry and an enthused public set to illuminate Zagreb.

The Zagreb Grand Prix 2015 will capture the imagination of the public at the Dom Sportova Arena from Friday 1 – Sunday 3 May. This year a record-breaking 439 judoka from 55 nations will compete over the next three days as the entry level has increased in volume and quality year-on-year since Rijeka in 2013 and the last visit to Zagreb a year ago. 

Croatia’ sun-soaked capital city is tasked with hosting the fourth Grand Prix of the year following visits to Dusseldorf (Germany), Tbilisi (Georgia) and Samsun (Turkey). Athletes from three continents, Oceania, Pan America and Africa, have been in continental championship action already this month with the Asian and European judoka due to contest their versions in May and June respectively.

Hosts Croatia have entered 19 judoka with a mix of youth and experience including 2014 Youth Olympic champion Brigita Matic.

The 19-year-old said: “Winning the Youth Olympics in Nanjing was a beautiful experience for me and a big honour to fight there for the Croatian national team. It gives me motivation to keep training more and more and to qualify for the Olympic Games and represent my country on that stage.”

Brigita’s older sister and European bronze medallist Barbara Matic, 20, has been cruelly ruled out of her home event due to an injury sustained at the Tbilisi Grand Prix where she finished in fifth-place.

Click here to read a Q&A with Brigita (left) and Barbara Matic (right)

The official draw and press conference took place at the Panorama Hotel opposite the venue on Thursday and was closely watched by the delegations and media in attendance.

The Official Draw of the Zagreb Grand Prix 2015

Mr. Vladimir BARTA, IJF Head Sports Director, made the welcoming address for the International Judo Federation.

Mr. BARTA said: “Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Zagreb. We have seen an increase in the number of fighters, nations and the layout of the venue this year which is all very encouraging. On behalf of the IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER, I would like to thank the Croatian Judo Federation and President Ms. Sanda CORAK for all of their work in hosting this event. I wish you all good luck.”

Ms. Sanda CORAK, Croatian Judo Federation President, said: “Dear coaches, officials and distinguished guests, I offer you a warm welcome to the second Grand Prix in Zagreb. It has been a long-term goal of the Federation to make judo the most popular sport in our country. We are very happy with the entry and have worked hard especially in these last few days to make sure all the preparations are made.

“This year we are pleased to introduce a special Judo Park where there will be activities for children and families all weekend. This year we have changed the venue to offer the best arena possible for the athletes and the event. I hope you can all take the time to see our city and I wish everyone a successful and pleasant stay in Croatia.”

Croatian Judo Federation delegation from L-R: Mr. Dean BOGIC, Vice President, Ms. Sanda CORAK, President, Mr. Tomislav CULJAK, Executive Board Member and Croatian Parliament Vice President 

Mr. Jan SNIJDERS, IJF Head Referee Director, took the opportunity to reemphasise some important points for coaches to relate back to their athletes.

“I would like all judoka to pay particular attention to the kumi-kata and fighting in the middle of the tatami. These are two fundamental points which I am sure you can all respect during this event. I wish you all a lot of success.”

The Croatian team was unveiled at the press conference in full judogi and will now turn all of their attention to competing in their homeland this weekend after completing their media obligations.  

The Croatian Judo team with IJF Sports Director Mr. Daniel Lascau, IJF Head Refereeing Director Mr. Jan SNIJDERS, Croatian Judo Federation President Ms. Sanda CORAK and IJF Head Sports Director Mr. Vladimir BARTA

IJF President on Twitter:
Official event hash tag:
#JudoZagreb2015Judobase: Instagram:



World number six Taciana LIMA-BALDE (GBS) won her third consecutive African Championships gold medal a week ago as she closes in on becoming her country's first Olympic judoka at Rio 2016. LIMA-BALDE is the top seed in Zagreb and will be confident of at least repeating her bronze medal in Croatia from a year ago. Tbilisi Grand Prix winner Maryna CHERNIAK (UKR) will bid for more gold while teenage world bronze medallist Amandine BUCHARD (FRA) returns to -48kg duty after a foray into the -52kg category. 


World silver medallist and world number two Andreea CHITU (ROU) will be the fighter to beat in the -52kg category. The 26-year-old Romanian took bronze in Dusseldorf and will look forward to potential contests against world number five Mareen KRAEH (GER), Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze medallist Annabelle EURANIE (FRA) and Jeju Grand Prix bronze medallist Gili COHEN (ISR).


Olympic bronze medallist Marti MALLOY (USA) won the Pan American Championships a week ago to close in on the summit of the -57kg weight category. The 28-year-old is overdue an IJF medal and will be optimistic of wearing gold on back-to-back weekends. Tyumen Grand Slam silver medallist MALLOY will be in action along with world number five and Tbilisi Grand Prix bronze medallist Miryam ROPER (GER), Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze medallist Sabrina FILZMOSER (AUT) and 20-year-old Pan American bronze medallist Catherine BEAUCHEMIN-PINARD (CAN). 


The world’s top four will all be in Zagreb as the fascinating category is set for another shake-up this weekend. World silver medallist Yarden GERBI (ISR) is the number one seed while world bronze medallist Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO), world champion Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) and Anicka VAN EMDEN (NED) complete the imposing quartet.   


Pan American champion Kelita ZUPANCIC (CAN) took gold in Zagreb last year and will be expected to continue her impressive form from the first quarter of 2015. Sally CONWAY (GBR) took bronze at the Samsun Grand Prix and will be one to watch along with world bronze medallist Katarzyna KLYS (POL) and the ever-improving 21-year-old Szaundra DIEDRICH (GER) who won the Tbilisi Grand Prix in March. 


Dusseldorf Grand Prix silver medallist Anamari VELENSEK (SLO) will be the top seed in the -78kg category on Sunday. The 23-year-old Slovenian will be severely tested as standout names from the world’s top 10 will be fighting in Zagreb. World number six Luise MALZAHN (GER) won bronze at the Samsun Grand Prix and will command the attention of her fellow seeds such as Dusseldorf Grand Prix bronze medallist JOO Abigel (HUN) and 21-year-old Samsun Grand Prix winner Madeleine MALONGA (FRA). 


Germany provides the top two seeds in the women’s heavyweight category as both Franziska KONITZ and Jasmin KUELBS will be targeting gold. Tbilisi Grand Prix bronze medallist KONITZ and Samsun Grand Prix bronze medallist KUELBS will be challenged by seasoned opposition such as Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist Ksenia CHIBISOVA (RUS), Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix silver medallist Gulsah KOCATURK (TUR) and newcomer and Junior European champion Jodie MYERS (GBR) who is taking part in only her second Grand Prix.



World number 12 GANBOLD Kherlen (MGL), who last graced at IJF podium as a bronze medallist at the Jeju Grand Prix, is the top seed in Zagreb in the men’s lightweight category. Beijing Olympics silver medallist  Ludwig PAISCHER (AUT) and the always capable Brit Ashley MCKENZIE (GBR) will see action along with Qingdao Grand Prix silver medallist Hovhannes DAVTYAN (ARM). 


World bronze medallist Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) leads the plentiful -66kg field into action on Friday as the number one seed. The Ukrainian star, 27, will have renowned judoka such as Jeju Grand Prix bronze medallist Colin OATES (GBR), vying to outperform him along with 20-year-old Pan American champion Antoine BOUCHARD (CAN). Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist Golan POLLACK (ISR) is the fourth seed and will be looking to earn his first medal in 2015. 


Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner and world leader Dex ELMONT (NED) is a big stage performer and will believe that a victory in Zagreb can go a long way to securing European and world medals this year. Dusseldorf Grand Prix bronze medallist Sagi MUKI (ISR) and world bronze medallist Victor SCVORTOV (UAE) will be tipped to bolster their places as the world number three and four respectively. 


World silver medallist Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) is the top seed in the -81kg category with runaway world number one and world champion Avtandili TCHRIKISHVILI (GEO) not in action this weekend but instead next week in Baku. Pan American Championship bronze medallist VALOIS-FORTIER, who surprisingly is yet to win an IJF gold medal, will face opposition from familiar foes such as world number seven Travis STEVENS (USA) and double European bronze medallist Joachim BOTTIEAU (BEL). 


World silver medallist TOTH Krisztian (HUN) may be the present and future of the -90kg category at 19 years old and will be the judoka to stop in Zagreb as the top seed. Samsun Grand Prix winner Noel VAN T END (NED) is poised to build on his breakout year from 2014 while rugged veteran Guillaume ELMONT (NED) will be another front-runner along with Tashkent Grand Prix Alexandre IDDIR (FRA). 


World champion Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) will compete on the IJF World Judo Tour for the first time since winning his maiden world crown in August 2014. KRPALEK, 24, who recently made one of his regular training trips to Japan, can expected to be challenged by national rivals Karl-Richard FREY (GER) and Dimitri PETERS (GER) and Qingdao Grand Prix winner Martin PACEK (SWE), all of whom will have gold in their sights. 


Dutch heavyweight force Roy MEYER (NED) won gold last year in Zagreb and comes back this year as the top seed. MEYER, 23, missed out on a medal in Dusseldorf and Samsun this year and will demand a more fruitful outing in Croatia. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Daniel NATEA (ROU) is yet to taste Grand Prix glory while Samsun Grand Prix bronze medallist BOR Barna (HUN) is battling to secure back-back-back appearances on an IJF podium.  



10:00 Preliminaries on three mats
17:00 Final block on one mat

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


10:00 Preliminaries on three mats
16:30 Opening ceremony 
17:00 Final block on one mat

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


10:00 Preliminaries on three mats
17:00 Final block on one mat

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

Location: Dom Sportova Arena

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vizer stays calm

He may have stirred the hornet's nest but Marius Vizer stays calm...
It has been a tumultuous week at the SportAccord convention in the Russian city of Sochi. But the man at the centre of the storm has remained calm. On Thursday the president Marius Vizer addressed the customary closing press conference, he looked content maybe relieved that he had voiced his concern for the world of sport    
So, Vizer stays cool and collected, that is until the subject of IAAF President Lamine Diack crops up
I dedicate and I sacrifice my family for sport, I mean sacrifice in the way of dedication," Vizer said at a news conference in Sochi. "And in my eyes, (Diack is) a person who sacrifices sport for his family."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Vizer goes for Ippon!

Here is the full text of Sports Accord (and IJF) President Marius Vizer's recent scathing speech against the International Olympic Committee.

Here is an insightful analysis of what's going on with the champion (Thomas Bach), the challenger (Vizer) and the smooth operator (Sheik Al Sabah). Here's an excerpt:
There was no reason for such a harsh attack. He could have sweetly mentioned the problems that exist, opening a door to an open and frank debate. But he has preferred the fight. Why? Has Vizer chosen  attack as the best defense in order to avoid being the target? Has he fallen into a trap? Or more simply, has he decided to go to the war in order to count who is with him and who is against? At the moment he looks as if he’s the loser, but we are only in the first round.
The immediate backlash has been brutal as several international sports bodies have suspended or broken off ties with Sports Accord. But as the analysis points out, this is only the first round. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pulling down the head without attacking is Shido

In the past, one of the ways you can cause your opponent to get a penalty is to pull down his head and make him passive. The French, in particular, were excellent at this.

These days, however, if you simply pull down your opponent's head without attacking, you will get the penalty, as can see in this clip below.

Blue is pulling down White's head. But Blue is not attacking. Only pulling down the head. He should get a Shido, according to most of the referees and the IJF Referee's Commission.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ebinuma proves he is top dog in -66kg

Ebinuma gets his revenge and throws Takaichi with a stylish hip throw.
Last December, I wrote about how Japan is also super strong in the -66kg weight class. The current world champion in that weight class is Japanese -- Masashi Ebinuma -- and right now, he looks to be the best in the world.

Since the 2012 London Olympic Games, he has not been beaten by any non-Japanese in any international individual competitions (he was defeated by Russia's Kamal-Khan Magomedov in the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Team Championships).

He has been beaten by his teammates though. In the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam, both Kengo Takaichi and Hifumi Abe defeated Ebinuma (Abe went on to win the gold in that competition). But in this past weekend's All-Japan Weight Class competition, Ebinuma was on top form and emerged victor, defeating Takaichi in the final. Abe, interestingly, got bronze.

Watch Ebinuma destroy Takaichi in the final:

In 2014 in Chelyabinsk, Japan sent two players in the -66kg weight class. Ebinuma was the main player and Takaichi was the alternate. This is likely to happen again at the 2015 Astana World Championships.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Suprise defeats in Japan -73kg division

Last December I wrote about how Japan was spoilt for choice in the -73kg division. That's because they had three world champions all still very active in competition.

Japan's 2010 World Champion Hiroyuki Akimoto made a surprise comeback in the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam to defeat 2013 World Champion Shohei Ono in the final. This showed he was still very much in contention for the top spot. However, in both Akimoto and Ono's way for pole position is 2014 World Champion Riki Nakaya (who was also World Champion in 2011).

So, there you have it, three incredibly talented world champions in the -73kg division. But guess what, all three failed to make it to the final of the All Japan Weight Class competition this weekend.

Instead it was little known Soichi Hashimoto and equally unknown Takeshi Doi who made it to the final. In the end, Hashimoto prevailed and became the champion of the -73kg weight class. (Nakaya and Ono both got bronze).

What you are looking at right now in Japan is a weight class with up to five really good fighters. Japan is really, really, really, really, really spoilt for choice when it comes to the -73kg weight class.

You can watch the -73kg final between Hashimoto and Doi below:

Following the competition, it was Riki Nakaya who was chosen to represent Japan in the 2015 Astana World Championships. This makes sense since both Hashimoto and Doi have little experience competing at top international competitions and it is Nakaya who is the reigning world champion and not Ono.

However, as each country can send up to nine players (for seven weight classes), it's possible (and likely) that Ono will be chosen as an alternate for the -73kg weight class. It's worth noting in the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships, both Nakaya and Ono represented Japan.