Thursday, October 29, 2015

Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2015, U.A.E PREVIEW

(Via IJF)


The fourth IJF Grand Slam of the year begins in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Friday with 489 judoka eyeing glory across 14 weight categories.


There is a glint reflected off the exterior of the pristine white IPIC Arena in the Sheikh Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi. Rather fittingly, it seems, as the venue for this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam gets ready to host its second big judo event of the year, just 3 days after the conclusion of the Junior World Championships.

The IJF World Judo Tour stops in Abu Dhabi following the Junior World Championships 2015 which were held in the Emirates capital over the last week. In attendance for the Grand Slam are 5 Olympic and 2 world champions, of whom the most prominent will be recently crowned world champion (-60kg) Yeldos SMETOV (KAZ). SMETOV will be taking to the tatami for the first time since his historic triumph in an-all Kazakh final in Astana on August 24, 2015 and despite being seeded second will be the man to watch out for in his weight category.

In the women’s field, all eyes will be on Majlinda KELMENDI of Kosovo who will be looking to continue her remarkable run in Abu Dhabi where she is yet to lose a single contest in an IJF event since her first run out on in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in October 2011. The double world champion in the -52kg category made a triumphant return from injury in the Lisbon European Open before winning the Paris Grand Slam earlier this month and showcased just why she is building a reputation of being one of the ‘invincibles’ on the World Judo Tour. 

“I am happy where I am at but not very happy. I will not be so till the time I achieve the place where I belong which is to become world champion again eventually and to gain the top position in the world rankings,” said KELMENDI ahead of the draw, sounding an ominous warning to all her rivals in the field even while she seeks to make a full recovery from the back injury that forced her to skip the World Judo Championships this year.


The Official Draw of the IJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2015

Mr. Vladimir BARTA, IJF Head Sports Director, announced that the IJF World Judo Tour’s latest event has attracted 300 male judoka and 189 female judoka from 88 nations.  

Mr. Mohamed MERIDJA, IJF Education and Coaching Director, made the opening address on behalf of the International Judo Federation.

“Dear guests, dear ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the International Judo Federation and our President Mr. Marius VIZER, we are delighted to welcome you all to Abu Dhabi for the Grand Slam. We thank the U.A.E Federation for a successful Junior World Championships and now look forward to the Grand Slam. I wish good luck to all the teams, coaches and athletes."


Mr. Nasser AL-TAMIMI, U.A.E Judo Federation General Secretary, made the welcome address on behalf of the organising committee.

“Dear judo friends, on behalf of our Federation, I welcome you all to the United Arab Emirates for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Following a very successful fifth edition of the World Judo Day on Wednesday, it is our pleasure for the judo family to be united in Abu Dhabi. I’d like to welcome all of you to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, I hope you enjoy your stay here and I wish you all good results at the Grand Slam and at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”


Click here to read about the #WorldJudoDay 2015 - UNITY. Send information, pictures and videos from your activities to press@ijf.org. Stay tuned to www.worldjudoday.com for news on every #WorldJudoDay project as many activities are still being held throughout the world. 

Click here to view the ongoing Olympic qualification list 


FOLLOW THE COMPETITION
IJF President on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mariusvizer
Official event hash tag:
#JudoAbuDhabi2015Judobase: http://www.judobase.org Instagram: http://instagram.com/judogallery
YouTube:
 http://www.youtube.com/judo 


WOMEN

-48kg

Olympic champion Sarah MENEZES (BRA) has not won an IJF World Judo Tour medal since taking gold at the 2014 Tyumen Grand Slam. The 25-year-old Brazilian will have to change her fortunes around this weekend but can expect to be pushed to her limits just to escape her pool with world number four and Lisbon European Open winner Taciana LIMA-BALDE (GBS) for company in the same pool. 

Sarah MENEZES (BRA) said: “This is an important event for me. I am looking forward to it with my teammates.”

-52kg

Andreea CHITU (ROU) is an omnipresent threat on the IJF World Judo Tour and enters the fourth Grand Slam of the season as the top seed. The Romanian will be among the favourites along with world bronze medallist Erika MIRANDA (BRA) and double world champion Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS).

Erika MIRANDA (BRA) said: “This is my first competition after the Worlds Championships, I really want to compete in Abu Dhabi because this competition will show whether my work is going in a good direction or not. I want to reduce my errors until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”

-57kg

World silver medallist Corina CAPRIORIU (ROU) leads the -57kg category into action on Friday and will look to convert her status as the number one seed into Grand Slam gold. The participation of judoka such as former world champion Rafaela SILVA (BRA), Olympic bronze medallist Automne PAVIA (FRA) and former world bronze medallist Miryam ROPER (GER) illustrates how crucial this Grand Slam has become to every delegation. 

-63kg

World silver medallist Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) has yet to compete since losing her 2014 world crown in the -63kg final in Astana. The 23-year-old French favourite has taken an extended break since the Worlds as she watched the Paris Grand Slam from the stands and will hope to be coming into the tournament feeling revitalised. Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Martyna TRAJDOS (GER) will be confident of challenging for what would be the first Grand Slam title of her career.

Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) said: “I feel really good now after my break. For me Paris was still too early to compete after the World Championships.”

-70kg

European Games winner Kim POLLING (NED) took bronze in Paris a fortnight ago with Grand Slam gold having eluded her thus far this season. The Dutch ace will be in action alongside Junior world champion GERCSAK Szabina (HUN) who has remained in Abu Dhabi to continue her upward progression while ARAI Chizuru (JPN) is the only representative for Japan.

GERCSAK Szabina (HUN) said: “After the junior gold I want to take some results finally at -70kg at the senior level. I hope I can do it here in Abu Dhabi. I feel very good with myself and my form and I hope I can take a medal.”

-78kg

Fresh from winning the Paris Grand Slam on home soil Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) is ready to once again position herself as one of the leading protagonists in the thrilling -78kg category. Former world champion Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) returns to action following her shock early exit in Astana while Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist JOO Abigel (HUN) is searching for a route to the podium having been away from the medals since May. 

+78kg 

World champion YU Song (CHN) has been highly-active since capturing her first world title. The heavyweight, who will compete on Sunday, won bronze at the Tashkent Grand Prix and finished fifth at the Paris Grand Slam last time out. YU is a fighting champion and will need to give a performance befitting of her world champion status with Tashkent Grand Prix winner KIM Minjeong (KOR) and Emilie ANDEOL (FRA) in close proximity. 


Use the hashtag #JudoAbuDhabi2015 to join in on the social media discussion 

MEN

-60kg

World bronze medallist KIM Won Jin (KOR) is the top seed in the men’s lightest weight category which will be contested on day one. KIM, who was part of a highly-successful South Korean team in Astana, saw Yeldos SMETOV (KAZ) eclipse the entire field in Kazakhstan to win the world title. SMETOV dons his new red backpatch for the first time on Friday in his first competition since becoming a national hero.   

Former world champion GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL) said: “I am training as usual every day, twice a day. Now everything is working towards the Olympics. I was very happy to be the 2014 world champion and had the red backnumber for a year but unfortunately I was not strong enough this year but I want the gold backpatch after Rio 2016.”
   

-66kg

Paris Grand Slam silver medallist and the king of the highlight reel Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) is in Abu Dhabi with the incentive of becoming the world number one if he can medal. While a red sticker in some spheres suggests someone is still learning their craft, for 21-year-old AN Baul (KOR), the colour indicates that he ruled the world this summer and, once the rookie of his team, he is now one of the faces of judo in South Korea, Asia and the world. Baku Grand Slam winner Nijat SHIKHALIZADA (AZE) and world bronze medallist Rishod SOBIROV (UZB) will be among the leading opposition.  

Kilian LE BLOUCH (FRA) said: “The competition is very strong. Even the first round will be very tough because he (Kamal KHAN-MAGOMEDOV - RUS) is a good fighter and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
  

-73kg

World number one Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) took silver on his return to action at the Paris Grand Slam and his immediate participation in the subsequent event here in Abu Dhabi shows the Azeri is back to full strength. Budapest Grand Prix winner UNGVARI Miklos (HUN) and Samsun Grand Prix bronze medallist Victor SCVORTOV (UAE) will also be challenging for -73kg honours along with Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Nick DELPOPOLO (USA).

Nick DELPOPOLO (USA), who returns to competition having recovered from a torn abdominal muscle, said: “I trained in Munich for two weeks, followed by the Paris training camp and another half week at the Judo Institute. For me personally, I have fought the majority of guys in my pool, I like my chances as long as I'm executing my game plan.”

-81kg

Olympic bronze medallist Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) is the judoka to beat in the -81kg category having won back-to-back Grand Prix, Grand Slam and World Championships medals. Olympic champion KIM Jae-Bum (KOR) lost his first contest at the World Championships and will hope to banish that memory with success in Abu Dhabi. Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Sven MARESCH (GER) and World Championships bronze medallist Victor PENALBER (BRA) are also taking part.

Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) said: “I’m feeling good. I’m not in the best shape but still think I can do good things in Abu Dhabi. Training is going well but my main focus is really on next summer!” 

-90kg

World Judo Masters bronze medallist Noel VAN T END (NED) is the top seed on his return to action. European Games bronze medallist Ilias ILIADIS (GRE) and former world silver medallist TOTH Krisztian (HUN) can both light up any tournament whilst Tashkent Grand Prix silver medallist USTOPIRIYON Komronshokh (TJK) is hurtling up the world ranking list and has his first Grand Slam medal in his sights.

Noel VAN T END (NED) said: “I have been training well again. I was not able to compete at the Paris Grand Slam which was disappointing but the training camp in Paris went well so I think I am ready to fight again.”

-100kg

World number one Elmar GASIMOV (AZE) finished fifth at the Paris Grand Slam as he looks to recapture the form which saw him win the World Judo Masters in May. With no medal since then, GASIMOV’S, world number one spot is in jeopardy, with former world champion Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) hoping to draw inspiration from his recent training trip to Japan.

Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) said: “I don't feel great, because I have still some problems with my body, but I will do my best for my best result. I was twice in Japan this year, and in November I go as well. For me this is very important. I like Japan, because in Japan the people are very friendly. And for training it’s the best place.”

+100kg

Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Faicel JABALLAH (TUN) could be the premier heavyweight on Sunday as the world number two starts the day as the top seed. The African Games winner will face opposition from Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Daniel ALLERSTORFER (AUT) and Pan American Games silver medallist Freddy FIGUEROA (ECU).

Daniel ALLERSTORFER (AUT) said: “I am really looking forward to Abu Dhabi. Last year I finished in fifth place and this was my first top 7 result at a Grand Slam. So I hope I can also make a good result this year.”

Freddy FIGUEROA (ECU) said: "This has been a good year for me winning a silver medal in the Pan Am Games and moving up several places in the IJF world ranking list. I am so excited to be in the Grand Slam and I look forward to winning some fights and adding points towards Rio 2016.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location: IPIC Arena

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