The IJF World Judo Tour has landed in Hungary for the final Grand Prix in Europe before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Hungary’s renowned leg of the IJF World Judo Tour, the Budapest Grand Prix, emanates from the capital city which is also the location of the IJF Presidential Office and the host city of the IJF World Championships 2017.
The Budapest Grand Prix is one of three remaining IJF events before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, as the tour moves on to Asia next week for Mongolia’s Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix before culminating in July with Russia’s Tyumen Grand Slam.
Olympic qualification closed after the World Judo Masters 2016 in Guadalajara, Mexico, in May and now the picture is clear for all judoka and nations. For those who have qualified the focus is purely on performing to the best of their ability, when it matters the most, in Rio de Janeiro while a standout few have not had to concern themselves with the race for qualification. Their talent, their desire and their consistency over the last two years and over their entire sporting career has been motivated by their insatiable appetite for Olympic success. The IJF announced on Thursday the full list of qualified athletes for the Olympic Games as 136 countries and 389 competitors will take part which is a new participation record for judo at the Olympic Games (the last record was London 2012 with 135 countries and 387 athletes).
Official draw of the Budapest Grand Prix 2016
Budapest welcomes Olympic and world champions which is a testament to the quality of the competition and the city being the 2017 Worlds host city along with a host of champions looking to leave Hungary with one more victory under their belt before the Games.
Olympic champion Kayla HARRISON (USA) and world champion Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) will be in action along with double world champion Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS), World Judo Masters winner Travis STEVENS (USA) and double Olympic bronze medallist Rishod SOBIROV (UZB).
The draw took place on Thursday at Papp László Sportaréna, following a live Twitter question and answer session with IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER. The complete transcript of the session will be posted online on the IJF website.
Before the opening speech by Mr. Marius VIZER, IJF President, the audience of IJF Executive Committee members, coaches and distinguished guests watched the latest #JudoForTheWorld film and applauded the latest video in the ongoing series which will be released next week on the IJF platforms.
The IJF’s special film series features Zambia on this occasion as the IJF continues to travel to territories to highlight the incredible judo stories in regions around the world and the values of the sport. The trailer for the #JudoForTheWorld Zambia film will be published on Monday on the IJF website and social media channels.
Mr. Marius VIZER (above - centre), IJF President, opened the draw on behalf of the International Judo Federation.
“Dear colleagues, IJF Executive Committee members, coaches, officials and referees, it a pleasure to see you all here for the Budapest Grand Prix 2016. I would like to make a comment on the Zambia film, as we are working on the development of a big dojo there and we are at an advanced stage. I hope all judo fans and the media will enjoy seeing our latest #JudoForTheWorld film next week.
Mr. VIZER added: “On the other hand, you are all thinking about the 56 medals available in judo at the Olympics. I ask that you all show the behaviour and values which are deeply rooted in our sport. We are pleased that 136 countries have qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which means judo will be one of the most widely participated sports in Rio, with only swimming and athletics featuring more nations.
“I hope to see you all in Rio in good spirits, it is important to appreciate and recognise that judo is very much appreciated in the Olympic family and will also feature in the Refugee Team. Following the IOC decision to create a ‘Refugee Olympic team’ (ROT), two judoka, who will be members of the delegation, were added to the list and one more athlete coming from Syria has also been included at this stage after I appealed to the IOC to include this athlete who I kept in my mind after seeing them at the Asian Championships.
“While you may all be thinking of Rio 2016, I would like to say that the 2017 World Championships will have $1,000,000 million total in prize money which will be a record. I wish you all a lot of success at the Budapest Grand Prix, Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix and Tyumen Grand Slam. I am sure that you all will continue to show the educational values of our sport with no animosity and you will put your emotions aside to show your professionalism at all times.”
Dr. László TÓTH (above - centre), Hungarian Judo Association President, made the first address on behalf of the organising committee.
“Dear Mr. President, dear friends, on behalf of the Hungarian Judo Association, I would welcome you all to the Budapest Grand Prix. We hope you regard Budapest as a special destination on the IJF World Judo Tour. The Budapest Grand Prix offers us great development for our sport in Hungary. It is not so easy to organise this event so close to the Olympics but we have worked hard to organise everything to your satisfaction and we invite you to the 2017 World Championships here in Budapest next year.”
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Four-time consecutive African champion Taciana LIMA-BALDE (GBS) is the top seed in the women’s lightest weight category. The Brazilian-born judoka who switched to representing her father’s homeland of Guinea Bissau in 2013 has become the first Guinea Bissau judoka to qualify for the Olympic Games and will be determined to win her first Grand Prix title in Budapest on day one. Former World Judo Masters winner ENDO Hiromi (JPN) makes only her second international start since beating the Olympic champion Sarah MENEZES for gold at the invite-only event in Russia in 2013.
Two-time world champion Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS) is the number one seed in the -52kg category as she closes in on her first Olympics for Kosovo where she will be the overwhelming favourite. KELMENDI was shocked by Christianne LEGENTIL (MRI) in London and the Mauritius fighter – who has a Grand Prix silver and Grand Prix bronze medal to her name from 2014 – has been training and living at the IJF Training Centre in Dunavarsany, Hungary, to prepare for the Games having finished seventh at London 2012.
Olympic bronze medallist Marti MALLOY (USA) – who turned 30 on Thursday – is one of America’s two top seeds in the competition. The Pan American Championships winner is the top -57kg judoka while Olympic champion Kayla HARRISON is the leading fighter at -78kg. MALLOY, who has also been working on a Masters degree in Media and Communications during this Olympic cycle, will be aiming for a belated birthday present as long as she can overcome judoka such as former world champion UDAKA Nae (JPN) and the fit-again Telma MONTEIRO (POR) who makes her first start since October 2015 having recuperated from a knee operation. MONTEIRO, who presented compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo with a judogi for his son last year, is heading into her fourth Olympic Games with the goal of finally winning her first Olympic medal.
World and European champion Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) leads the -63kg field into action on Saturday. TRSTENJAK is trying to emulate Slovenian national coach Urška ŽOLNIR who won the London 2012 Olympic title and has a fantastic opportunity to keep the -63kg golden crown in a nation with a population of just two million people. Junior world champion NABEKURA Nami (JPN) is part of a 12-strong Japanese delegation while Estefania GARCIA (ECU) and Sarah LOKO (BEL) will both be confident of a place on the podium.
Former world silver medallist Laura VARGAS KOCH (GER) is the top seed in the -70kg category. VARGAS KOCH is the favourite for -70kg gold in Budapest but has high-quality opposition from all manner of continents. Madrid European Open winner Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED), Almaty Grand Prix bronze medallist Maria PEREZ (PUR), Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Elvismar RODRIGUEZ (VEN) and African Championships bronze medallist Antonia MOREIRA (ANG) will all compete.
Olympic champion and Rio 2016 Olympics top seed Kayla HARRISON (USA) competes this Sunday for the final time before the Olympics. HARRISON, 25, is obsessed with the winning feeling and said she is 40 days away from Rio 2016. The American judoka will not overlook the Budapest Grand Prix which includes world silver medallist Anamari VELENSEK (SLO) while 21-year-old Sama Hawa CAMARA (FRA) is targeting her first senior medal on the IJF World Judo Tour while Havana Grand Prix winner JOO Abigel (HUN) will fly the flag for the hosts.
Baku Grand Slam silver medallist YU Song (CHN) is the number one seed in the women’s heavyweight category on Sunday which also features her teammate and World Judo Masters silver medallist. Larisa CERIC (BIH) won a career-best World Judo Masters bronze medal last time out in May and will be confident of adding to her resume in Budapest on the second and final day of the Grand Prix.
Almaty Grand Prix bronze medallist Sharafuddin LUTFILLAEV (UZB) is the top seed in the men’s lightest weight category as the Uzbek star will feature in a seven-strong team for Uzbekistan. Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Otar BESTAEV (KGZ) is a judoka with an enhancing reputation and can add to that this weekend. Samsun Grand Prix bronze medallist Ilgar MUSHKIYEV (AZE) is also among the names to look out for on day one.
Double Olympic bronze medallist Rishod SOBIROV (UZB) is the fighter to beat in the -66kg category. The Uzbek hero, who won the worlds twice at -60kg, took bronze at the World Championships last year at -66kg. Sebastian SEIDL (GER) was second last year at the Budapest Grand Prix and could repeat or improve on that this time around while two relatively unknown Japanese judoka on the senior circuit are ominously among the field. Junior world champion ASARI Masaya (JPN) and Jeju Grand Prix silver medallist FUJISAKA Taroh (JPN) could both flourish in Budapest.
Three-time Grand Slam medallist Igor WANDTKE (GER) will be trying to convert his top seed status into gold on Saturday. The German fighter took silver at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last year and bronzes in Paris and Tyumen. Former European champion Rok DRAKSIC (SLO) took bronze at the European Championships this year to signal his return to form and that should continue this weekend on day one.
Dusseldorf Grand Prix silver medallist Sven MARESCH (GER) is the pick of the judoka in the -81kg category as the top seed. MARESCH, who has been officially selected for the Olympics, has two Grand Prix victories on his record with the last coming in 2014 at the Samsun Grand Prix. MARESCH has to emerge from the shadow of Ole BISCHOF who won Olympic gold in 2008 and silver in 2012 and will be confident of victory in Budapest to add further momentum to his Olympic charge. London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Ivan NIFONTOV (RUS) competes on the IJF stage for the first time since the 2015 World Championships as the 29-year-old former world, European and Grand Slam winner aims to win his very first Grand Prix title.
Former world silver medallist TOTH Krisztian (HUN) - who took over the IJF’s Instagram account on Thursday - is the leading gold medal hope for hosts Hungary in Budapest. TOTH, 22, who will be seeded for his first Olympics, could come up against World Judo Masters winner Travis STEVENS (USA) for the first time as the latter fights at -90kg to keep active heading into Rio 2016 without having to cut much weight. Double world silver medallist Kirill DENISOV (RUS) and reigning Budapest Grand Prix -90kg winner Celio DIAS (POR) could also shine on Sunday.
Rio 2016-bound Karl-Richard FREY (GER) is the favourite for -100kg gold on Sunday as Germany’s world silver medallist prepares for his first Olympic Games. FREY, who was fifth at the Baku Grand Slam in his last event in May, has stellar opposition from judoka such as former world champion Elkhan MAMMADOV (AZE) and Asian Championships silver medallist Soyib KURBONOV (UZB).
Havana Grand Prix bronze medallist Andre BREITBARTH (GER) tops the heavyweight bill on paper as the number one seed. BREITBARTH, who won bronze at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last year, has judoka such as Pan American Championships silver medallist Freddy FIGUEROA (ECU) for company and both will be fighting to make their way into the heavyweight final which will be the last fight of the competition.
11:00 Preliminaries on four mats
16:30 Opening ceremony
17:00 Final block on two mats
Women: -48kg, -52kg, -57kg, -63kg
Men: -60kg, -66kg, -73kg
11:00 Preliminaries on four mats
17:00 Final block on two mats
17:00 Final block on two mats
Women: -70kg, -78kg, +78kg
Men: -81kg, -90kg, -100kg, +100kg
Location: Papp László Sportaréna