Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Interview with Fighting Films' Director Danny Hicks about Superstar Judo

If you are a fan of international judo, you must have noticed the recent launch of Superstar Judo, an exciting new judo coaching site that features top international judo players. In the short time since it's been launched, we've already had insightful lessons from the likes of World Champion Neil Adams and Olympic and triple World Champion Jeon Ki-Young. This week, we have lessons from former British international and World Medalist, Euan Burton. Best of all, there are new daily clips for you to look forward to. This is really exciting stuff. There's nothing like it out there.

We spoke to Fighting Films Director Danny Hicks about Superstar Judo and what it takes to get something very high quality like this off the ground.

JudoCrazy: How did the idea of Superstar Judo come about?
Danny Hicks: We knew that we needed to create something new and adventurous. DVDs have been on a downward slope for years now.

We first created a download site, with all of our DVD content as well as new content, available (for purchase and) download. But it just didn’t work and wasn’t exciting enough. We still had the issues we’ve always had with DVDs – which is illegal copying and distribution. The only option we had was a subscription model (streaming videos), where we could not only protect our content, but also adapt to today’s market and the market of the future, which is streaming.

However, if we were going to create a subscription site we would have to get a dojo so we could shoot regularly and produce high quality videos! Quality doesn’t just mean getting top-notch judo stars and ukes, but it also means the background, the audio, the lighting and the cameras must all be the very best too. So a simple dojo would not be enough. We would have to build a studio-dojo just for this. Which is what we did.

We got new premises for our purpose-built studio-dojo, which measures 8m x 8m and has a dedicated filming area. The tatami is sprung and we have branded wall cladding which changes with each shoot. The ceiling is high, which gives us lots of filming options. It is set up to allow us to film with up to seven cameras. The studio is blacked out, with theatrical lighting in place in all corners. It’s the only studio-dojo in the world! The result is what you see in Superstar Judo.

JC: Fighting Films started with selling video tapes and then moved on to DVDs. Now, you are doing streaming. Do you feel the era of DVDs is almost over? What about video downloads? Is that something that you will continue to offer alongside video streams?
DH: Yes, DVDs are on the way out. The lack of sales on DVDs has had a big impact on Fighting Films recently. Get them while you can because we won’t be duplicating any more titles! No more video downloads, this wasn’t working well enough and it would be too much at conflict with the subscription site which is now our premium product.

JC: Fans and practitioners of other martial arts like karate, BJJ, MMA and so on are known to be willing to spend lots of money on martial arts content – whether it's books or videos. Judo players, on the other hand, are notorious for wanting everything to be free. Why do you think that's so and how do you plan to deal with that since Superstar Judo is a paid subscription service.
DH: I don’t necessarily agree with that. I still think there are enough people in the judo world that will pay money for high quality products. Fighting Films has always represented premium quality, whether it’s books, DVDs or judogis. Due to the very high investment we put into the quality of these products we have to price them accordingly. But we’ve always found there’s been a big enough market – though just barely so – to continue producing the highest quality judo products.
Superstar Judo is a cut above everything else we have done so far. As I had mentioned, it’s our premium product across all merchandise. The investment is easily 10 times higher than anything else we’ve done so far. But when you see the clips we put out every day, you will appreciate the investment we have put into this to produce top-quality stuff

We have no doubt that everyone who uses the site will be blown away by the content. This is not just in terms of the judoka we work with, but also the way the content is presented. We are using state-of-the-art filming technology and super slow motion cameras to capture everything in minute detail. You will not miss a single thing. This is excellent for learning judo!

Each and every technique is first shown in its entirety, before it is broken down step-by-step, and then shown from multiple angles. Then the whole technique is put back together again, before you see real-life examples from international competitions. This is judo tuition like never before. Your judo will not be the same again after viewing these lessons!

JC: Having daily content means having to regularly produce new content. You've probably already got quite a lot of content already in the back burner. But won’t it be very challenging going forward, having to continually churn out new material?
DH: Yes, this is the big challenge, especially as its daily content we are releasing. However, we already have enough content in the bank until the autumn. We have already packed in a load of shoots since August last year, featuring both retired and current judokas and we are now in the process of editing all of that.

In the future we hope to have about a year’s worth of content in advance, with perhaps about three months’ worth fully-edited already, at all times. For sure, this is a big challenge but we know it’s achievable as the world of judo is rich with ideas and concepts. It’s just a case of getting it all up on the site.

JC: If a former international champion, or current champion for that matter, sees Superstar Judo and wants to be involved, should he/she contact you?
DH: Yes, absolutely. In fact, some have already approached us! Exciting times and exciting content ahead!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Safarov Reverse Seoi

Safarov Reverse Seoi
Safarov (AZE) is one of the few European players who really specialize in the reverse seoi-nage (usually done by South Korean and Japanese players. Here, he pulls it off against Ashley McKenzie (GBR) despite a less than perfect entry. The key is to keep pulling, driving and rotating. Waza-ari is scored though it could have easily been an ippon.
Posted by JudoCrazy on Monday, January 25, 2016

McKenzie Side Takedown

McKenzie Side Takedown
Ashley McKenzie, who trains at the Camberley Judo Club, does a slick side takedown for ippon at the 2016 Havana Grand Prix.
Posted by JudoCrazy on Monday, January 25, 2016

Havana Grand Prix 2016 - DAY 3

(Via IJF)

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


Beyond the postcard image of Cuba and its undeniable tourist attractiveness, it has become over the years and due to the excellent results of Cuban judo - despite the sometimes complicated training conditions - a major destination for many judoka. 386 of the best athletes in the world, from 66 nations, had made the trip to the Caribbean to compete for the 14 Havana Grand Prix titles.  

If organising a competition of this size in Cuba is a challenge, it was perfectly done by the organising committee of the Cuban Judo Federation, supported by the International Judo Federation. Throughout the weekend, the level of judo was highly noted and it is clear that all eyes are now turning gradually towards Rio, which will host the Olympic Games in August. Obvisouly many athletes already have their virtual ticket for Brazil in their pocket, but this is not the case for everyone yet, and even the very best, are eager to get some extra points which will be very important when it comes to the draw of the Olympics.

Waiting for the big event, it was 425 fights that took place during the three days of competition in Havana, giving a perfume of increasing concurrence to this 2016 season that opened in the Cuban capital. Some confirmed their good January form, but they will have to stand the distance. Others have shown their weaknesses and now know what they have to improve if they want to reach the Rio podium in a few months from now.

The lights went out under the tent of the World Judo Tour which will now travel back to Europe where the next Paris Grand Slam 2016 will take place on February 6-7. 650 competitors from a hundred countries are already registered for this monument of the World Judo Tour that is the Paris Grand Slam.

Mr. Vladimir Barta, IJF Head Sports Director, said at the end of the competition: “We had a really great event here in Havana and it was fantastic to see how much the public understand judo. They know and appreciate the winner even if this is against a local athlete. The Cuban public really showed fairplay. It’s also important to see that even if the conditions are not always easy to organise a Grand Prix here, everyone puts 100% effort to deliver the best event possible. Cuba is a warm country with people with a big heart. 2016 is obviously a crucial season for all athletes and the organisers. This is the first time that we launch the tour in Pan-America and this year the first ever Olympic Games will be held in South America. I see that as a positive sign and I am sure it will bring luck over our sport.“

The friendship between Cuba and USA was a reality during the Havana Grand Prix 2016, Cuba

Please use #judoHavana2016 as often as possible in all your communications


-78kg: JOO Overcomes the Curse

The first big surprise of the day came from the defeat of the reigning Olympic champion, Kayla Harrison (USA), who could not escape the trap set by JOO Abigel (HUN). This victory of the Hungarian sounds like a little revenge. In 2012, during the London Olympic Games, JOO was largely leading her contest (waza-ari) against the future Olympic champion when she was seriously wounded (knee), thus allowing the American to regain the advantage and win the title while JOO failed at the bottom of the podium. Today, working seriously throughout the fight, the Hungarian won her bout with the smallest difference possible (one penalty), but this was enough to enter the final where she met the solid Luise Malzahn (GER).

A right hander (MALZAHN) against a left-hander (JOO) always ends up with complicated situation where the key is to catch the opponent’s sleeve. That is exactly what the two athletes tried to do for most of the final. After a tricky situation which could have ended with a throw from any side, JOO engaged her homemade uchi-mata but was smart enough to leave her foot hooked. When MALZAHN tried to counterattack, she was simply thrown on her back for a perfect ippon and a great victory for the Hungarian.

The first bronze medal fight of the women’s -78kg opposed silver medallist of the 2014 Baku Grand Slam, Assunta GALEONE (ITA) and the silver medallist of the 2015 World Judo Masters in Morocco, Natalie POWELL (GBR). GALEONE did not offer a small chance to POWELL and having scored a yuko immobilized her for ippon.

Having been defeated in the semi-final, Kayla HARRISON still had one chance to step on the podium as she faced Yalennis CASTILLO, but being in front of her public, the Cuban had an extra-motivation. HARRISON who expected a different issue for this competition, stepped on the tatami very motivated thoughout and was close to winning with an armlock before the half of the fight. But CASTILLO escaped. Much less active than her glorious opponent, the Cuban was penalised with a shido. During the fight, as a beautiful symbol of what sport and judo can generate, a Cuban and an American flag were waved side-by-side in the stands and at the end of the fight, which was finally won by the Olympic Champion, both athletes warmly congratulated one another. As Kayla HARRISON stepped out of the tatami, she immediately declared that she will offer her prize money to CASTILLO: “She needs it more than I do. She was a fantastic contender. She definitely deserves it. She has a child and I am sure that it will help her.“

JOO, Abigel (HUN) vs. MALZAHN, Luise (GER)

Bronze Medal Fights
GALEONE, Assunta (ITA) vs. POWELL, Natalie (GBR)
CASTILLO, Yalennis (CUB) vs. HARRISON, Kayla (USA)

Final Results
1. JOO, Abigel (HUN)
2. MALZAHN, Luise (GER)
3. GALEONE, Assunta (ITA)
3. HARRISON, Kayla (USA)
5. CASTILLO, Yalennis (CUB)
5. POWELL, Natalie (GBR)
7. DMITRIEVA, Anastasiya (RUS)

+78kg: ORTIZ’s Rules Prevail in Havana

Obviously the public came in numbers to see ‘its’ Olympic Champion, Idalys ORTIZ, in action throughout the day. And the thousands of spectators were not disappointed as the always smiling and relaxed ORTIZ managed to step into the final without really being endangered by her successive opponents. In the final, in front of her audience, the Olympic and former world champion was opposed to the one who was considered as an outsider in the morning of the competition. Indeed, Lucie LOUETTE KANNING (FRA) has an unusual background which makes her story even more beautiful today. Leader in her category (-78kg) in France a few years ago, she was blocked by a young athlete of incomparable power, Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) who became world champion. Lucie LOUETTTE KANNING decided to go up in the + 78kg weight category, where athletes are much heavier than her. Things seemed to go well for the French, until she seriously injured her knee. A surgery and months of rehabilitation later, she is back on the tatami for a new chapter of her career.

This must have been something impressive for the French to enter the stadium under the hurrahs of the crowd, which came here with one aim: to see their hero, Idalys ORTIZ. Having the full support of the public, nevertheless cheering with fairplay for LOUETTTE KANNING as well, the current Olympic champion awaited the first little mistake of her opponent to send her into a huge rolling movement for a ippon and for the delight of all the spectators.

The first bronze medal fight opposed Maria Suelen ALTHEMAN (BRA), two times finalist of the World Championships (2013 and 2014) and the bronze medalist of the last pan-american championships, Vanessa ZAMBOTTI (MEX) who scored the first yuko as both athletes were entering the last minute of the bout. ZAMBOTTI could explode with joy as the final gong echoed in the venue.

Svitlana IAROMKA (UKR) and Melissa MOJICA (PUR) were the last two athletes qualified for the second bronze medal fight and IAROMKA immobilized her opponent for ippon.


Bronze Medal Fights
ALTHEMAN, Maria Suelen (BRA) vs. ZAMBOTTI, Vanessa (MEX)
IAROMKA, Svitlana (UKR) vs. MOJICA, Melissa (PUR)

Final Results
1. ORTIZ, Idalys (CUB)
3. IAROMKA, Svitlana (UKR)
3. ZAMBOTTI, Vanessa (MEX)
5. ALTHEMAN, Maria Suelen (BRA)
5. MOJICA, Melissa (PUR)


-90kg: GONZALES, Master of Strategy at Home

If the popular Idalys ORTIZ was the most awaited Cuban athlete today, the 2013 World Champion, Asley GONZALES, had also the full support of his public in a category which was particularly strong. Number two seeded, GONZALES was expecting to meet TOTH Krisztian (HUN) in the final, which is what actually happened. The 2014 World silver medalist went through the preliminary rounds without shaking.

Apparently the two men know each other, but despite their friendship, they both went on the tatami with the desire to win. The first throwing attempt came from TOTH, but that was perfectly blocked by the Cuban, who then launch a powerful left handed drop-seoi-nage which put TOTH off balance but once again for no score. After an unsuccessful yoko-tomoe-nage attempt, the Hungarian was penalised with a shido. With a lot of experience, then GONZALES controlled the end of the final. Stuck on the edge of the fighting area, the Cuban was about to step out, which would have given him a shido, but very strategically he launched an attack to avoid the shido. The smallest point difference was enough to designate the winner, Asley GONZALEZ, who proved all his experience in such a kind of fight. Both athletes had a big smile at the end. They both knew that they gave everything and they mutually raised their arms under the hurrahs of the public.

With the final seeing the two top seeded athletes competing for gold, only another seeded athlete, Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) was able to enter the final block for bonze. He was opposed to CHENG Xunzhao (CHN) in the second bronze medal fight. The first bronze medal contest saw Ciril GROSSKLAUS (SUI) and Quedjau NHABALI (UKR), trying to find a spot on the podium.

The first bronze medal fight started with a slow pace, as GROSSKLAUS and NHABALI were trying to test each other but then NHABALI was penalised a first time with a shido, which was actually enough for the Swiss to win the bronze.

In the second bronze medal contest, KUKOLJ was the first to attack for no score, but a few seconds later he was able to score a yuko with a ko-uchi-gake. Apparently being weak on his back side, CHENG was again spectacularly thrown by KUKOLJ for a second yuko as he landed on his side. The third yuko for the Serbian came from a left-handed uchi-mata with two minutes remaining on the scoreboard. The question was, will CHENG Xunzhao be able to resist until the end the attacks of his opponent as KUKOLJ continued to have a very positive attitude throughout the bout. The answer was yes, but both athletes delivered a really beautiful fight.

TOTH, Krisztian (HUN) vs. GONZALEZ, Asley (CUB)

Bronze Medal Fights
GROSSKLAUS, Ciril (SUI) vs. NHABALI, Quedjau (UKR)
CHENG, Xunzhao (CHN) vs. KUKOLJ, Aleksandar (SRB)

Final Results
1. GONZALEZ, Asley (CUB)
2. TOTH, Krisztian (HUN)
3. KUKOLJ, Aleksandar (SRB)
5. CHENG, Xunzhao (CHN)
5. NHABALI, Quedjau (UKR)
7. VOPROSOV, Kirill (RUS)

-100kg: Outsider BLOSHENKO Tops the Podium

The world number one and winner of the World Judo Masters in 2015 was the ultimate favourite of the category. After a first fight won against HU Kai (CHN), Elmar GASIMOV (AZE) was facing Kazbek ZANKISHIEV (RUS), who was not among the favourites but the Russian was not afraid by the prize list of his famous opponent and defeated him by ippon before being defeated himself by future finalist Artem BLOSHENKO (UKR). The Ukrainian found on his way to the title, another gold medal hopeful as world number 5 and world silver medallist, Karl-Richard FREY (GER) also qualified for the final.

The final started as a battle of strong men and quickly gave the feeling that it would not run until the end. FREY was penalised two times for a gripping error before BLOSHENKO unbalanced him with a ko-soto-gari for ippon. In a category which is still very open, and with his last win on the occasion of a Grand Prix being back in 2014 at the Tbilisi Grand Prix, BLOSHENKO will score some important points for the Olympic qualification.

Today was definitely a good day for team Hungary as CIRJENICS Miklos (HUN) qualified for the first bronze medal fight against Adlan BISULTANOV (RUS). Multiplying the small mistakes, BISULTANOV was penalised with three shido, while CIRJENICS only got one, the Hungarian adding one more medal to his delegation’s prize list, which was impressive on that last day of competition in Havana.

The second bronze medal of the category was decided between 2013 World Champion and the Emirati athlete, Ivan REMARENCO. But MAMMADOV rapidly broke REMARENCO’s hopes for a medal and with a powerful soto-makikomi, powered his opponent into the tatami for ippon.

BLOSHENKO, Artem (UKR) vs. FREY, Karl-Richard (GER)

Bronze Medal Fights

Final Results
2. FREY, Karl-Richard (GER)
3. CIRJENICS, Miklos (HUN)
3. MAMMADOV, Elkhan (AZE)
7. PETERS, Dimitri (GER)

+100kg: Two Metres of Gold for SAIDOV

In the absence of Teddy Riner, unquestionable world number one, who will be back on the tatami in Paris in a few weeks from now, the last final of the day and of the event opposed the veteran and winner of the 2015 Baku Grand Slam, BOR Barna (HUN) and the giant Renat SAIDOV (RUS), both athletes having been the two top seeded competitors of the category.

If BOR Barna stepped out of the tatami with a big smile, it was not because he won the title, but actually because he lost. That might sound surprising, but SAIDOV’s uchi-mata was so perfect and so sudden (6 seconds only) that the Hungarian could only smile, first at his mistake, but also at the fantastic opportunist attack of the Russian giant.

The first bronze medal contest of the men’s heavyweights saw the second Russian, Andrey VOLKOV (RUS) facing the local Alex GARCIA MENDOZA (CUB). After a minute, both athletes were already penalised with a shido when GARCIA MENDOZA engaged a o-uchi-gari for yuko, which he could keep until the end of the contest to add one more medal for Cuba.

For the second bronze medal contest, the bronze medallist of the last Tashkent Grand Prix 2014, Daniel ALLERSTORFER (AUT) was opposed to Andre BREITBARTH (GER), who already obtained a bronze medal in Abu Dhabi last season. Less than a minute was enough for BREITBARTH to score a superb de-ashi-barai for waza-ari before concluding with an arm-lock.

BOR, Barna (HUN) vs. SAIDOV, Renat (RUS)

Bronze Medal Fights

Final Results
1. SAIDOV, Renat (RUS)
2. BOR, Barna (HUN)
5. VOLKOV, Andrey (RUS)
7. FIGUEROA, Freddy (ECU)
7. TAYEB, Mohammed Amine (ALG)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Havana Grand Prix 2016 - DAY 2

(Via IJF)

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



After a strong first day full of emotions and spectacular judo, where team Brazil showed that it had entered the final phase of preparation for ‘its’ Olympic Games, there were four new weight categories and 124 athletes engaged today in the Sports City Coliseum for the second day of the second Grand Prix in Havana, Cuba.

Once again just before the start of the final block the Cuban Judo Federation celebrated its famous coach, Ronaldo Veitia Valdivie, who officially retired from his impressive career as the head coach of the female Cuban national team. In his path through judo, ‘Ronaldo’ as every one fondly called him, achieved outstanding results. He coached at six Olympic Games from 1992 to 2012 and obtained 5 gold, 9 silver and 10 bronze medals. During the same period, he guided his athletes to 16 gold, fourteen silver and twenty seven bronze medals at the Senior World Championships. Mr. Veitia was also the successful coach of the Cuban team at many other international events including the World Team Championships and University and Pan-American competitions. This is without counting the numerous medals won in the other age categories, making him the coach with the largest number of Olympic medals in the history of judo.

Several of his athletes received prizes and were awarded as the most outstanding and technical athletes. Mr. Ronaldo Veitia is a eighth dan and today, surrounded by all of his athletes, he received the recognition of the Cuban sports movement. After having been awarded yesterday by the IJF President, Mr. Marius Vizer, and for his relevant contribution to the Cuban Judo School which allowed him to achieve all his results, Ronaldo Veitia was presented with a special award, signed by PhD Antonio Becali Garrido, President of INDER. The award was given by Jorge Polo Vazquez, INDER Vice-President. Then the legendary coach was also awarded by the Cuban Judo Federation and by the Pan-American Judo Confederation’s President, Mr. Manuel Larranaga.

Please use #judoHavana2016 as often as possible in all your communications


-63kg: Gerbi Does Not Shake in Havana

The first final of the day opposed the 2013 World Champion and top seeded athlete of the category, Yarden GERBI of Israel, who once again showed her explosiveness to overcome all of her opponents during the preliminary rounds and Maricet ESPINOSA (CUB), bronze medallist at the Qingdao Grand Prix 2015. If GERBI was not able to every time score ippon, she was never really in danger and successively defeated Isabel PUCHE (ESP), Maylin DEL TORO CARVAJAL (CUB) and Ekaterina VALKOVA (RUS). The story was not that successful for the other favourites of the competition who were all eliminated earlier during the competition. Some of them succeeded to enter the final block though in order to fight for at least a bronze medal.

The temperature of the stadium significantly increased as the two athletes entered the arena. In front of her public, ESPINOSA had the possibility to keep one gold medal on Cuban soil. The first attack came from GERBI, but it was perfectly blocked by the Cuban. A few seconds later, the public exploded with big hurrahs as ESPINOSA launched a powerful attack but for no score. Perfectly controlling the fight, Gerbi finally placed one of her preferred technique to score a waza-ari. World champion three years ago, Yarden GERBI remains one of the favourites for the Olympic title next summer in Rio de Janeiro.

Yarden Gerbi said: “I have been waiting for this feeling of winning gold since 2014 and this is too long for me. It feels great. I’m not at my best right now, but it’s important to win even when you are not at your best. Every time I think of the Olympics, I have the butterflies and this is my dream.“

The first bronze medal contest of the day opposed the silver medalist of the 2014 Zagreb Grand Prix, Mia HERMANSSON (SWE), and the silver medalist of the 2014 Pan-American Championship, Estefania GARCIA (ECU). After the four minutes of regular time, both athletes were penalised with two shidos. It was time for the golden score, which was clearly won by Mia HERMANSSON with a superb uchi-mata for ippon.

In the second bronze medal fight, Pari SURAKATOVA (RUS), silver medallist in Budapest last year, faced her teammate, Ekaterina VALKOVA (RUS), who concluded her season last year with a beautiful bronze medal in Tokyo. Half way to the end, both athletes were penalised with a shido for false attack. At the beginning of the last minute, SURAKATOVA was penalised a second time giving a small advantage to her opponent, VALKOVA, which she kept until the final gong for a place on the podium.

GERBI, Yarden (ISR) vs. ESPINOSA, Maricet (CUB)

Bronze Medal Fights
HERMANSSON, Mia (SWE) vs. GARCIA, Estefania (ECU)
SURAKATOVA, Pari (RUS) vs. VALKOVA, Ekaterina (RUS)

Final Results
1. GERBI, Yarden (ISR)
2. ESPINOSA, Maricet (CUB)
3. VALKOVA, Ekaterina (RUS)
5. GARCIA, Estefania (ECU)
7. ZOUAK, Rizlen (MAR)

-70kg: BOLDER Doubles the Score for Israel

Imitating her famous teammate from the -63kg weight category, Linda BOLDER (ISR) was also able to enter the final of the day in the women’s -70kg division. In the final she was opposed to a young athlete with a terrific potential as GERCSAK Szabina (HUN) is the current Junior World Champion and winner of the last edition of the Youth Olympic Games, which were held in Nanjing in 2014. No matter what the result of the final would be, this was the first appearance of GERCSAK at that level in the senior division. There is no doubt that she has the potential to become one of the favourites for a senior world title and an Olympic title in the future.

After less than 10 seconds, BOLDER dropped on her knees in a kata-guruma attempt but for no score even if it lifted GERCSAK's feet off the tatami. It was then the Hungarian turned to execute an ample uchi-mata, but without the control of the sleeve, this technique was not successful either. After an interesting ground work session, BOLDER could pin down her opponent but only for a second, not enough to take the lead. A little less active than her opponent, the Israeli was penalised with a shido. But a few seconds later it was GERCSAK to receive a penalty for stepping outside of the fighting area. Having started with a kata-guruma technique BOLDER concluded with the same but this time for a yuko which gave her the victory and a second gold medal for Israel on the occasion of this second day of the Havana Grand Prix 2016.

Linda Bolder declared: “The spirit in the team is very strong. We had a silver yesterday and two golds today. We feel really positive for this year.“

For the first bronze medal fight, team Brazil again entered one of its athletes in the final block, as Maria PORTELA, bronze medallist last December in Tokyo faced Barbara MATIC of Croatia, who was the second top seeded athlete of the category. Disqualified earlier during the competition MATIC could not compete due to a hansokumake and therefore PORTELA added one more bronze to the Brazilian prize list in Cuba.

Silver medallist at the Asian Championships last year, Gulnoza MATNIYAZOVA (UZB), confirmed that she is consistent and that she can regularly reach the final block of a major World Judo Tour event. With a bronze medal at the Baku Grand Slam, last year, Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA) was MATNIYAZOVA’s contender for a place on the podium. The athletes entered the last minute, with a yuko advantage to the French, which she confirmed with a waza-ari after she counterattacked a missed drop-seoi-nage from MATNIYAZOVA. With less than 20 seconds left on the scoreboard, the Uzbek had to take some risks, which gave the opportunity to GAHIE to conclude the match with a clear ippon with another counterattack.

BOLDER, Linda (ISR) vs. GERCSAK, Szabina (HUN)

Bronze Medal Fights
PORTELA, Maria (BRA) vs. MATIC, Barbara (CRO)
MATNIYAZOVA, Gulnoza (UZB) vs. GAHIE, Marie Eve (FRA)

Final Results
1. BOLDER, Linda (ISR)
2. GERCSAK, Szabina (HUN)
3. GAHIE, Marie Eve (FRA)
3. PORTELA, Maria (BRA)
5. MATIC, Barbara (CRO)
7. GAZIEVA, Irina (RUS)
7. PENNALVER, Melisa (CUB)


-73kg: Good Day for the World Number One ORUJOV

With his world number one ranking, and therefore the top seed position in Havana, Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) was the ultimate favourite of the competition and with no surprise he qualified for the final of the day in the -73kg weight division. Winner of the Grand Slam in Baku last year, ORUJOV faced the 2013 World bronze medallist, Victor SCVORTOV (UAE), who once again showed his positive fighting spirit, especially after he surged past Pierre DUPRAT from France in the semi-final within a minute. Throughout the preliminary rounds, SCVORTOV only once fought until the end of the regular time. All his other bouts were won by ippon.

With a subtile ko-soto-gari, SCVORTOV was the first one to put his opponent in danger but for no score. A few seconds later, he once again was the first to attack, but this time for yuko. Very opportunistic, always moving, SCVORTOV seemed to dominate the fight, but with a counterattack, ORUJOV did more than reduce the score, as he took a strong lead with a waza-ari, which was enough to secure the victory and a more dominant world number one position.

The first bronze medal contest opposed the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam silver medallist, Igor WANDTKE (GER), and Pierre DUPRAT (FRA), who looks as the best French qualification option for the Games so far, as he is regularly present on the podium of international events. After one minute, WANDTKE was penalised with a first shido just before DUPRAT could score a first yuko to take a significant lead. The final results looked secured in the hands of the French, when WANDTKE engaged a powerful sumi-gaeshi for waza-ari which he immediately followed with an immobilisation for ippon. There was less than a minute left to fight.

In the second bronze medal fight of the day, Sami CHOUCHI (BEL), who failed two times at the bottom of the podium last year, qualified against GANBAATAR Odbayar (MGL), bronze medalist on the occasion of the Asian Games in 2015. After a rough fight and with two shido given to his opponent, GANBAATAR could win the bronze medal.

Other favourites were launching their 2016 sports season in Cuba but they were less successful. Thus UNGVARI Miklos (HUN) and Musa MOGUSHKOV (RUS), were among the early eliminated athletes of the competition. But there are still several events before the end of the Olympic qualification process and for sure they will have other chances to collect the precious points.

ORUJOV, Rustam (AZE) vs. SCVORTOV, Victor (UAE)

Bronze Medal Fights
WANDTKE, Igor (GER) vs. DUPRAT, Pierre (FRA)
CHOUCHI, Sami (BEL) vs. GANBAATAR, Odbayar (MGL)

Final Results
1. ORUJOV, Rustam (AZE)
2. SCVORTOV, Victor (UAE)
3. GANBAATAR, Odbayar (MGL)
3. WANDTKE, Igor (GER)
5. CHOUCHI, Sami (BEL)
5. DUPRAT, Pierre (FRA)
7. NARTEY, Emmanuel (GHA)
7. REGIS, Andrea (ITA)

-81kg: Number One Seeded KHALMURZAEV Tops the Podium

The last final of the day opposed top seeded athlete and world number eight, Khasan KHALMURZAEV (RUS) and an old face of the international circuit, the American Travis STEVENS, fifth on the occasion of the last Olympic Games in London. Despite a beautiful continental title last year obtained on the occasion of the Pan-American Games in Toronto, STEVENS had kind of a year off from the international podiums through a run of injuries. This place in the final puts him back on the list of the Olympic medallist favourites in a weight category which counts an impressive number of world class judoka such as Avtandili TCHRIKISHVILI (GEO), Takanori NAGASE (JPN), Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) and Loïc PIETRI (FRA).

With a superb action-reaction movement on the edge of the fighting area, KHALMURZAEV scored a first waza-ari at the beginning of the bout. For the rest of the match, KHALMURZAEV mainly controlled STEVENS to secure the victory.

The first bronze medal contest saw the winner of the 2014 Tashkent Grand Prix, Roman MOUSTOPOULOS (GRE) opposed to Sven MARESCH (GER), who was the second top seeded competitor here in Havana. MARESCH received the first penalty for a false attack. Then MOUSTOPOULOS scored a first yuko with a counterattack. While MOUSTOPOULOS was also penalised once, MARESCH received two extra shidos putting him in the danger zone, one shido away from the hansokumake. But the victory finally went to the Greek even if he was penalised again for passivity.

The second bronze medal bout featured world number 17, CSOKNYAI Laszlo (HUN) and 2015 Tyuman Grand Slam bronze medallist, Alexander WIECZERZAK (GER). The first left handed o-soto-gari from WIECZERZAK was unsuccessful. Then the fight resumed into a tough battle to get the strongest grip, when CSOKNYAI was capable of counterattacking twice the German’s attacks for a waza-ari-awasete-ippon and a bronze medal.


Bronze Medal Fights
CSOKNYAI, Laszlo (HUN) vs. WIECZERZAK, Alexander (GER)

Final Results
2. STEVENS, Travis (USA)
3. CSOKNYAI, Laszlo (HUN)
5. MARESCH, Sven (GER)
5. WIECZERZAK, Alexander (GER)
7. ALIMLI, Rustam (AZE)
7. SILVA MORALES, Ivan Felipe (CUB)