The IJF World Judo Tour stops in Germany this weekend for the Dusseldorf Grand Prix as the road to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is set for some dramatic twists and turns at the Mitsubishi Electric Halle from Friday 19 – Sunday 21 February.
The German leg of the circuit is the third IJF event of the Olympic season which opened in Cuba with the Havana Grand Prix before the French centrepiece of the Paris Grand Slam a fortnight ago.
Dusseldorf is set to hold one of the strongest Grand Prix of all time with 548 judoka and 86 nations primed to battle for invaluable points towards Rio 2016 Olympic qualification.
Olympic and world champion MATSUMOTO Kaori (JPN) is part of a seven-strong Japanese team as judo’s founding nation has switched their entire team from the Paris Grand Slam. World champion ONO Shohei makes his eagerly-awaited return to the IJF World Judo Tour as he competes in his new red backpatch for the first time since winning his second world crown in 2015.
Russia’s three London 2012 Olympic champions will all be in action as they hope to reignite their post-London careers. Triple world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Yuri ALVEAR (COL) is also among the stars on show in Germany.
The official draw took place on Thursday afternoon and Mr. Mohamed MERIDJA, IJF Education and Coaching Director, made the opening address on behalf of the International Judo Federation.
Mr. MERIDJA said: “Dear President, dear judo family members, on behalf of our IJF President, Mr. Marius VIZER, I wish you all a warm welcome to the Dusseldorf Grand Prix 2016. I would like to thank the German Judo Federation for all of their work in hosting this event which I am sure will be a great success. Thank you all for your support and I wish you good luck.”
Mr. Peter FRESE, German Judo Federation President, made the welcoming address on behalf of the hosts.
Mr. FRESE said: “Dear Executive Committee members, dear federations, dear all, I welcome you to the Dusseldorf Grand Prix. We hope the competition will be a great event and we will all see that judo is more than a sport. I wish you all a successful competition.”
Mr. Jan SNIJDERS, IJF Refereeing Director, said: “Dear President, dear judo family members, dear ladies and gentlemen, the only thing I would like to stress is for your judoka to take the kumi-kata. I wish you all the best, I hope your road to Rio 2016 is a good one and good luck in this tournament.”
Use #JudoDusseldorf2016 to join in with the social media discussion
Click here to view the ongoing Olympic qualification lists
World number one MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg (MGL) took silver in Paris a fortnight ago and is the favourite for top spot in Dusseldorf. Olympic bronze medallist Charline VAN SNICK (BEL) missed out on the podium in Paris as she finished fifth but the European Games winner won here in 2015 and could mount a similar charge to glory in 2016. Lisbon European Open winner Taciana LIMA-BALDE (GBS) is closing in on history as she is poised to become her country’s first Olympic judoka and will be expected challenge for honours on day one in Dusseldorf.
Paris Grand Slam runner-up Andreea CHITU (ROU) is yet again the top seed in the -52kg category and will be the fighter to beat as the current world number one. World bronze medallist Erika MIRANDA (BRA) is looking for gold in Dusseldorf as she ramps up her Olympic preparations while European Games bronze medallist Natalia KUZIUTINA (RUS) will also be expected to be in medal contention.
Olympic and world champion MATSUMOTO Kaori (JPN) returns to the scene of her successful 2014 return. World number six MATSUMOTO, 28, who fell in the second round of the Tokyo Grand Slam in December, made her post-London 2012 return in Germany but will need to be at her best to win a star-studded category. World Judo Masters winner DORJSUREN Sumiya (MGL), world silver medallist Corina CAPRIORIU (ROU) and Paris Grand Slam winner KIM Jan-Di (KOR) provide a sample of the immense quality and depth in the -57kg category.
World champion Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) finished fifth in Paris and will be aiming to bounce back at the first opportunity in Dusseldorf. TRSTENJAK, who can be identified as the reigning world champion by her red backpatch, is the top seed in the category but will be in action alongside some of the leading -63kg judoka in the form of Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Martyna TRAJDOS (GER) and former world champion Yarden GERBI (ISR).
Jeju Grand Prix bronze medallist Laura VARGAS KOCH (GER) leads the billing as the top -70kg seed in the absence of the injured Kim POLLING (NED). Three-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Yuri ALVEAR (COL) competes for the first time since the 2015 World Championships and will be intent on making this appearance count as she aims for place on the podium in Rio. Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Sally CONWAY (GBR) is one of her country’s best hopes this weekend and indeed at the Olympic Games.
Former world champion Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) was humbled in her opening contest at the Paris Grand Slam and will cast that result out of her mind if she can win on Sunday. Home favourite Luise MALZAHN (GER) is always a reliable performer for her country while world number nine Natalie POWELL (GBR) is capable of building on her fine Paris Grand Slam bronze medal with another strong display on the IJF World Judo Tour this weekend.
World champion YU Song (CHN) is the favourite to capture the gold medal in the +78kg category on Sunday. The Chinese star is joined in action by her teammate and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner MA Sisi (CHN) and only one of them will go to Rio 2016. Olympic champion Idayls ORTIZ (CUB) won the Havana Grand Prix last month and followed the event by visiting her first dojo with the IJF. Click here to watch #JudoForTheWorld Cuba.
Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist KIM Won Jin (KOR) is the top seed as he was in France and is part of a supremely talented South Korean team. Havana Grand Prix bronze medallist Orkhan SAFAROV (AZE) will be a leading hope for Azerbaijan’s 12-strong team while a lot will be expected from Yeldos SMETOV (KAZ) on only his second appearance since winning his first world crown in Astana last year.
World champion AN Baul (KOR) took bronze last time out and enters the -66kg category as the man to beat. The 21-year-old will be pushed all the way by Paris Grand Slam runner-up DAVAADORJ Tumurkhuleg (MGL) and double world silver medallist Mikhail PULYAEV (RUS) along with former European bronze medallist Colin OATES (GBR).
Paris Grand Slam gold medallist AN Changrim (KOR) is straight back into action as his team continue to star on the IJF World Judo Tour. Havana Grand Prix winner Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) will be a medal contender while double world champion ONO Shohei (JPN) will compete for the first time since winning his second world title. The Japanese superstar is a highlight reel favourite and will be focused on repeating his 2015 Dusseldorf success on day two.
Olympic bronze medallist Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) is the top seed in the -81kg category which contains 62 judoka. Paris silver medallist Ivaylo IVANOV (BUL) is the form judoka at this weight having burst onto the IJF stage last year while Havana Grand Prix silver medallist Travis STEVENS (USA) craves fighting home judoka and may experience that with Sven MARESCH (GER) fighting while Alexander WIECZERZAK (GER) misses his home event with a fever.
World champion GWAK Dong Han (KOR) captured bronze in Paris and will hope his red backpatch will be on display in the final block and on the podium. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam silver medallist Noel VAN T END (NED) and world silver medallist TOTH Krisztian (HUN) are among the superstars in action in the -90kg category along with Olympic silver medallist Asley GONZALEZ (CUB) and the legendary Ilias ILIADIS (GRE).
World Judo Masters winner Elmar GASIMOV (AZE) enters as the number one seed in the -100kg category. Olympic bronze medallist Dimitri PETERS (GER) will look to take advantage of the absence of Karl-Richard FREY (GER) who is ruled out with the flu. Olympic champion Tagir KHAIBULAEV (RUS) is still in the running for Rio 2016 and has teammate and world number 13 Adlan BISULTANOV (RUS) for company on Sunday.
World number four JABALLAH Faicel (TUN) is the top seed in the +100kg category and will hope to be contesting the last contest of the Grand Prix on Sunday. Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Roy MEYER (NED) and world bronze medallist Iakiv KHAMMO (UKR) will compete along with Olympic bronze medallist Rafael SIVA (BRA).