Sunday, May 15, 2016

Almaty Grand Prix 2016 - Kazakhstan DAY THREE

(Via IJF)

The Almaty Grand Prix 2016 came to a highly-charged conclusion on Sunday with the final day of the final open Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualification event.

Kazakhstan’s annual leg of the IJF World Judo Tour featured the women’s -78kg and +78kg categories and the men’s -90kg, -100kg and +100kg categories at the Sport Palace Baluan Sholak.  

France finished top of medal table with three gold medals and two bronze ahead of Georgia who won two gold and two bronze medals while Cuba who came third with a haul of two gold medals and one bronze.

Olympic champion Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) celebrated +78kg gold on Sunday

Every judoka on the world stage has harboured the dream of one day representing their country at an Olympics since they first tied their belt and graced a dojo. Now, on the final road to Rio, they had to show more than they ever had before to accomplish their quest which has driven them during all the stages of this four-year cycle. The desire to win can more than match talent in a sport where a single second of inspiration can be the difference between victory and defeat, gold and silver, bronze and fifth-place, Olympic qualification and Olympic heartache.


It was a weekend of dejection and despair for some of the judoka fighting in Almaty while others fought above and beyond their own expectations.  

Team USA's -63kg judoka Leilani AKIYAMA (USA) lost her first contest and with it her Olympic dream.

Akiyama said: “Since I was a little girl starting out in judo, I had the dream of fighting for USA at the Olympic Games. With a heavy heart, the road to Rio has come to an end for me. I will not be competing in the Olympics this summer. Today I may have fought in my last competition. After twenty years of competing, it's hard to hang it up and say goodbye. I don't know if that was my last fight, I have yet to make that decision.

“I look back on the last four years and there are things that I could have done differently and unlucky things have happened, but I don't regret trying. Congratulations to all of my friends and teammates who made the team. Only we know how hard we've worked and all of the sacrifices we've made.”

Arleta PODOLAK (POL) – winner of the -57kg gold medal - said: “I feel very happy because it’s my first Grand Prix medal and we are at the end of the Olympic qualification so it’s a perfect time to win gold. I am not sure about everything. I am pretty close to qualification but I feel far away too. We will see from here. I want to have a rest now for a few days and hopefully go to the World Judo Masters.”

London 2012 Olympian Emmanuel NARTEY (GHA) – who lost his continental quota place to his teammate Szandra SZOGEDI (GHA) - said: “It is a very difficult day and moment for me, to announce that I will not be competing in Rio. This is also the last time I will carry the Ghana flag on the international stage. It has been a difficult 12 years, with some good times and some bad times too. I cry many times and I have laughed many times too, but in all I have enjoyed every minute of it. Where we go from here I do not know but I will say good luck to all who have make it to Rio.”


The invite-only World Judo Masters in Guadalajara, Mexico, from 27-29 May closes the Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualification phase with Olympic spots still at stake and an elite group aiming to secure a place in the top eight on the ranking list which would be enough for a seeded place in Rio. The current pecking order is all subject to change and judoka at home will be tuned into the live stream as continental quota spots will change and there will be many twists and turns in the race for Rio in a fortnight's time in Guadalajara.   

Olympic and world champion MATSUMOTO Kaori (JPN) and former world champions Loic PIETRI (FRA) and Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) are among the stars expected to accept their invitations to Mexico. 

Watch #judogdl2016 live and free from 27-29 May at


-78kg: Asian champion ZHANG clinches Chinese gold         

Asian Championships winner ZHANG Zhehui (CHN) conquered the -78kg category on Sunday as the Chinese fighter beat former Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Albina AMANGELDIYEVA (KAZ) in the final. ZHANG and AMANGELDIYEVA were both striving to win their first Grand Prix title and the Chinese fighter, who held a qualification position before her first contest, scored a yuko – the only score of the contest – to all but confirm her place at the Olympics where she will a serious medal threat. 

In the first semi-final Olympic silver medallist Gemma GIBBONS (GBR) was beaten by ZHANG who was part of an 11-strong Chinese team in Almaty. GIBBONS, who was fighting for more than a place in the final with an outside chance of making it to her second Olympics, saw ZHANG receive a shido for passivity but was then on the receiving end of harai-makikomi for a waza-ari score. British hero GIBBONS, who moved from London to Edinburgh following her hometown heroics in 2012, scored two yukos in the final minute as ZHANG started to wilt under the pressure. The Chinese held on after a spirited effort from the battling GIBBONS who turned her attention to a push for bronze while her opponent could look forward to a spot on the podium.  In the second semi-final AMANGELDIYEVA convincingly defeated Pan American Championships bronze medallist Yalennis CASTILLO (CUB) by registering a score in all three columns. AMANGELDIYEVA produced a yuko, waza-ari and then ippon to give the home crowd an invested interest in the final as they chased their second gold medal of the competition.

The first bronze medal was won by CASTILLO who returned to winning ways by beating Havana Grand Prix bronze medallist Assunta GALEONE (ITA) on shidos. Both judoka were penalised in the opening minute and one more shido was given as Italian GALEONE was held accountable for not taking a grip and that was the only action of the scoreless contest. The second bronze medal contest was won by former Samsun Grand Prix bronze medallist Victoriia TURKS (UKR) against GIBBONS as the British fighter could not compete due to injury. GIBBONS now has to win the World Judo Masters and outperform teammate Natalie POWELL (GBR) by some distance in Mexico to catch the Welsh judoka in the long-running race for Rio 2016.       
ZHANG, Zhehui (CHN) vs AMANGELDIYEVA, Albina (KAZ)                                    

Bronze Medal Fights
GALEONE, Assunta (ITA) vs CASTILLO, Yalennis (CUB)                              
GIBBONS, Gemma (GBR) vs TURKS, Victoriia (UKR)                                

Final Results 
1. ZHANG, Zhehui (CHN)                                          
2. AMANGELDIYEVA, Albina (KAZ)                                                                          
3. CASTILLO, Yalennis (CUB)                                  
3. TURKS, Victoriia (UKR)                                                                                          
5. GALEONE, Assunta (ITA)
5. GIBBONS, Gemma (GBR)  
7. RAMIREZ, Yahima (POR)
7. POGORZELEC, Daria (POL)                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

+78kg: Olympic champion ORTIZ ready for Rio

Olympic champion Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) prepared to defend her title this summer by taking a confidence boosting win in the women’s heavyweight category. World number two ORTIZ, 26, who was possibly wearing her gold backpatch as the London 2012 winner for the final time, defeated European champion Kayra SAYIT (TUR) on shido penalties in a tentative final. ORTIZ said she is 80% sure that she will fight at the World Judo Masters later this month while SAYIT has been a late bloomer in this cycle for Turkey. The charismatic Cuban, who has won the hearts of the judo family and not just her home nation, won 1:2 on shidos and was all smiles as she left the tatami. 

In the semi-finals ORTIZ defeated former Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Larisa CERIC (BIH) as the latter was unable to challenge the supremacy of the Cuban. CERIC was penalised four times to receive hansoku-make and set her sights on a bronze medal charge instead of a berth in the +78kg final. In the second semi-final Asian Championships winner KIM Minjeong, who was sporting some red highlights, was held down by the high-flying SAYIT for 20 seconds and ippon.   

The first bronze medal was won by Pan American Championships bronze medallist Melissa MOJICA (PUR) against beaten semi-finalist KIM. A yuko from MOJICA was the only score of the contest as MOJICA made it two bronze medals from the two Puerto Rican judoka in Almaty. The Pan American nation has never won an Olympic judo medal but will be putting everything behind MOJICA and -70kg bronze medallist Maria PEREZ this summer. The second bronze medal was won by CERIC as she extended her unblemished head-to-record against Warsaw European Open bronze medallist Santa PAKENYTE (LTU) to 5-0. CERIC was penalised once while PAKENYTE received three shidos in a contest which failed to develop any rhythm but was still appreciated by the respectful crowd.                   
ORTIZ, Idalys (CUB) vs SAYIT, Kayra (TUR)                                                                      
Bronze Medal Fights
MOJICA, Melissa (PUR) vs KIM, Minjeong (KOR)                              
CERIC, Larisa (BIH) vs PAKENYTE, Santa (LTU)                 

Final Results
1. ORTIZ, Idalys (CUB)  
2. SAYIT, Kayra (TUR)                                  
3. MOJICA, Melissa (PUR)                                                           
3. CERIC, Larisa (BIH)                    
5. KIM, Minjeong (KOR)                                
5. PAKENYTE, Santa (LTU)                                                               
7. ISSANOVA, Gulzhan (KAZ)          
7. ODKHUU, Javzmaa (MGL)                                                                                                                     


-90kg: Cool CLERGET shows his class for France         

Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Axel CLERGET (FRA) won -90kg gold on Sunday with a win against Asian Championships bronze medallist CHENG Xunzhao (CHN) in the final. CHENG came to Almaty holding 30th position on the Olympic qualification list and the one-time IJF Grand Prix winner (Qingdao 2012) fell behind to a waza-ari from a harai-makikomi and CLERGET, who respectfully praised his teammate and Rio 2016 front-runner Alexandre IDDIR in the post-event television interview, literally wrapped up his opponent and the gold medal with a hold down for 15 seconds. IDDIR is up at the lofty heights of eighth in the Olympic qualification zone and it remains to be seen what France has up their sleeves for the World Judo Masters. 

In the first semi-final CHENG defeated Samsun Grand Prix silver medallist Mammadali MEHDIYEV (AZE) with a thunderous osoto-gari for ippon which sparked huge celebrations as his coach jumped out of the chair and CHENG fell down to his knees as he can expect to compete for his country in Rio with greater certainty. In the second semi-final CLERGET past home fighter Dauletkhan ZHAKYPOV (KAZ) by ippon after leading by a waza-ari as the Frenchman did everything in his powers to improve his ranking and with it his growing candidacy for Rio.

The first bronze medal was awarded to Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Mihael ZGANK (SLO) who kept alive his Olympic ambitions by defeating home judoka ZHAKYPOV on shido penalties. ZGANK was down in 31st place on Olympic qualification list at the start of the day and had to win a medal to push himself towards the top 22 and a potential invite to the World Judo Masters if members of the top 16 are unable to take their place in Guadalajara. A single shido against the Kazakh fighter was the only time the referee was called into action and Slovenian ZGANK had achieved his goal. The second bronze medal went to MEHDIYEV as he came from behind to see off African Championships winner Abderrahmane BENAMADI (ALG). Azeri MEHDIYEV was rolled partially over for the lowest score but responded with a textbook left-sided ouchi-gari for the maximum score and bronze.  
CLERGET, Axel (FRA) vs CHENG, Xunzhao (CHN)                                                                                   
Bronze Medal Fights
ZHAKYPOV, Dauletkhan (KAZ) vs ZGANK, Mihael (SLO)                                 
MEHDIYEV, Mammadali (AZE) vs BENAMADI, Abderrahmane (ALG)    

Final Results
1. CLERGET, Axel (FRA)                                      
2. CHENG, Xunzhao (CHN)                                 
3. ZGANK, Mihael (SLO)                                        
3. MEHDIYEV, Mammadali (AZE)                          
5. ZHAKYPOV, Dauletkhan (KAZ)                                   
5. BENAMADI, Abderrahmane (ALG)                            
7. BROWN, Colton (USA)                               
7. ABD EL AKHER, Hatem (EGY)                                                                                                                                                                                   

-100kg: Azeri MAMMADOV aces Almaty     

Former world champion Elkhan MAMMADOV (AZE) defeated Samsun Grand Prix silver medallist Rafael BUZACARINI (BRA) in the -100kg final for a highly-popular result as the winner had a considerable travelling party of Azerbaijan fans behind him. Brazil will enter a 14-strong full team at the Olympic Games with one fighter per category as the home nation and one of their toughest choices will be who to pick in the -100kg category. MAMMADOV scored a waza-ari with seven seconds left from a combination as he spun his opponent before finishing with an osoto-gari which meant that his country won more gold medals in Almaty then they did at their home event, the Baku Grand Slam, a week ago. Brazil’s -100kg selection quandary could be settled at the World Judo Masters. 

In the first semi-final BUZACARINI defeated former world silver medallist Jose ARMENTEROS (CUB) by a waza-ari score while in the second semi-final MAMMADOV rushed past Baku Grand Slam runner-up CIRJENICS Miklos (HUN) by ippon after 96 seconds.   

The first bronze medal was won by Tbilisi Grand Prix silver medallist Javad MAHJOUB (IRI) who was throwing CIRJENICS regularly and with elevation but onto his side for two yuko scores. CIRJENICS was penalised for passivity before MAHJOUB made sure of bronze by throwing with ippon seoi-nage for the maximum score. The second bronze medal was won by Asian Championships silver medallist Soyib KURBONOV (UZB) as top seed ARMENTEROS left Almaty empty-handed. Both judoka had two shidos each going into the final minute as both judoka were still searching for their first score. KURBONOV came through for Uzbekistan as he threw his Cuban opponent with a makikomi effort for a yuko with eight seconds left and ran down the remaining time.                 
BUZACARINI, Rafael (BRA) vs MAMMADOV, Elkhan (AZE)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Bronze Medal Fights
MAHJOUB, Javad (IRI) vs CIRJENICS, Miklos (HUN)                     
ARMENTEROS, Jose (CUB) vs KURBONOV, Soyib (UZB)         

Final Result
1. MAMMADOV, Elkhan (AZE)                                
2. BUZACARINI, Rafael (BRA)                                     
3. MAHJOUB, Javad (IRI)  
3. KURBONOV, Soyib (UZB)                                    
5. CIRJENICS, Miklos (HUN)                                                                       
5. ARMENTEROS, Jose (CUB)             
7. BEN KHALED, Anis (TUN)                                  
7. SAIDOV, Saidzhalol (TJK)                                                                                                                                                                          

+100kg: OKRUASHVILI takes a crucial step for Georgia             

Former world bronze medallist Adam OKRUASHVILI (GEO) delivered on the Grand Prix stage in Almaty as he defeated Ushangi KOKAURI (AZE) to top the +100kg podium after winning the last final in Kazakhstan. OKRUASHVILI took the lead with a yuko with a fast ashi-waza movement and kept his distance for the remainder of the contest as he played it safe to come away with gold as teammate and fellow Rio 2016 hopeful Levani MATIASHVILI (GEO) finished with bronze.                 

In the first semi-final KOKAURI (AZE) held down Islam EL SHEHABY (EGY) with a kami-shiho-gatame for 20 seconds while in the second semi-final MATIASHVILI lost out to OKRUASHVILI by ippon.

The first bronze medal went to MATIASHVILI who revived his case for Rio 2016 selection with one of the ippons of the day against number one seed Faicel JABALLAH (TUN). African contender JABALLAH was unsuccessful with a harai-goshi attempt as he lost his footing and MATIASHVILI produced a heavyweight ippon for a resounding finish and declaration of his untapped potential on the IJF World Judo Tour. The second bronze medal went to African Championships silver medallist Mohammed Amine TAYEB (ALG) who inflicted a second and successive defeat for EL SHEHABY on shido penalties with one against the former and three against the latter.                                
KOKAURI, Ushangi (AZE) vs OKRUASHVILI, Adam (GEO)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Bronze Medal Fights
JABALLAH, Faicel (TUN) vs MATIASHVILI, Levani (GEO)                 
EL SHEHABY, Islam (EGY) vs TAYEB, Mohammed Amine (ALG)                             

Final Result
1. OKRUASHVILI, Adam (GEO)                                          
2. KOKAURI, Ushangi (AZE)                                   
3. MATIASHVILI, Levani (GEO)                   
3. TAYEB, Mohammed Amine (ALG)                                                                          
5. JABALLAH, Faicel (TUN)
5. EL SHEHABY, Islam (EGY)                                    
7. SARNACKI, Maciej (POL)                       
7. TANGRIEV, Abdullo (UZB)                                                                                       

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