Sunday, September 25, 2016

Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 - Croatia DAY THREE

(Via IJF)



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

The Zagreb Grand Prix 2016, the first IJF Grand Prix following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, heralded a new term as a new generation of judoka tasted IJF World Judo Tour action.

The three-day Grand Prix concluded on Sunday as the heavyweights rounded off a fascinating competition at the Dom Sportova which featured Rio 2016 Olympians, World Judo Masters medallists, and an abundance of young newcomers to the tour, who have designs of earning selections for Grand Slams and the World Championships in the upcoming 12 months.

Zagreb’s last day of Grand Prix competition for 2016 showcased the women’s -78kg and +78kg categories and the men’s -90kg, -100kg and +100kg categories on the European leg of the IJF World Judo Tour 2016.
Russian were the runaway leaders at the Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 as they finished with a stunning medal haul of three gold, three silver and five bronze ahead of Poland and France who impressed on all three days in Croatia.

Great Britain's Max STEWART (white) was among the medallists on day three as he won -90kg bronze

Mr. Vladimir BARTA, IJF Head Sports Director, said that the Zagreb Grand Prix had been an exciting competition which unearthed several new judoka who are clearly destined to reach the summit of the sport.

“We have seen a new generation of judoka here in Croatia and this is very encouraging and good for judo fans. I have to highlight the success of Barbara MATIC on Saturday, she said was not feeling 100% but still won gold and achieved a great result for her Federation and supporters.

“Many countries who only medalled at the Rio 2016 Olympics in judo were also present here in Croatia such as Kosovo and they introduced new judoka to their team with very strong results. The impact of their Olympics results gives them a platform to develop their team and judo in their respective countries and we congratulate them on their continued growth in our sport.”

The IJF World Judo Tour now leaves Europe and ventures to Asia with everything still to fight for in 2016 with two Grand Prix and a Grand Slam still to come in the final quarter of the year. Uzbekistan is the next host city as the Tashkent Grand Prix will take place from 6 - 8 October with Japan, Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan among the competing nations. 

Uzbekistan will field a maximum team of 56 judoka while neighbours Kazakhstan have entered a team of 23 and Russia have picked 19 judoka.

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-78kg: Hungary’s JOO starts new Olympic bid with gold ahead of 2017 Worlds in Budapest       

Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist JOO Abigel (HUN) has a short-term goal of winning her home World Championships next year in Budapest and a long-term goal of winning the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. JOO, 26, finished seventh at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – having finished fifth at London 2012 while her -78kg final adversary Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) was overlooked for Rio 2016 by the Dutch Judo Federation. World Judo Masters bronze medallist STEENHUIS started the day as the favourite for gold but JOO outworked her in the gold medal contest and scored a yuko from a ko-uchi-gake with 40 seconds left which was the only score of the four minute contest.

In the first semi-final STEENHUIS needed a last-gasp waza-ari score to see off Brigita MATIC (CRO) as the latter was unable to follow in her older sister’s footsteps but could still maintain hope of a route onto the medal podium. Former Youth Olympic Games winner Brigita was leading with a yuko from a makikomi effort but lacked composure in the final seconds and the seasoned Dutchwoman STEENHUIS produced the biggest score of the contest to advance into the gold medal contest.

In the second semi-final two-time Olympian JOO Abigel (HUN) dispatched former Samsun Grand Prix bronze medallist Sama Hawa CAMARA (FRA) in just 13 seconds with a flashing ashi-waza movement to book an enticing final between the two most accomplished -78kg judoka in the competition.

The first bronze medal was won by CAMARA as France’s number three beat Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Karen STEVENSON (NED) to grace an IJF medal podium for the first time. CAMARA, who has double Olympic medallist Audrey TCHEUMEO and Samsun Grand Prix winner Madeleine MALONGA ahead of her, scored a waza-ari from a sasae-tsurikomi-ashi and sealed her medal with an osoto-makikomi earning a second and match-winning waza-ari.

The second bronze medal contest was won by former Orenburg European Cup silver medallist Antonina SHMELEVA (RUS) as Junior world champion MATIC could not compete having sustained a pectoral injury in the last second of her last contest. 
JOO, Abigel (HUN) vs STEENHUIS, Guusje (NED)

Bronze Medal Fights
CAMARA, Sama Hawa (FRA) vs STEVENSON, Karen (NED)
MATIC, Brigita (CRO) vs SHMELEVA, Antonina (RUS)

Final Results 
1. JOO, Abigel (HUN)
2. STEENHUIS, Guusje (NED)
3. CAMARA, Sama Hawa (FRA)
3. SHMELEVA, Antonina (RUS)
5. MATIC, Brigita (CRO)
7. PRODAN, Karla (CRO)
7. APOTEKAR, Klara (SLO)

+78kg: Year to remember continues for CERIC and Bosnia-Herzegovina

World Judo Masters bronze medallist Larisa CERIC (BIH) has been prolific in 2016 and her run of IJF World Judo Tour hardware looks no sign of abating as she defeated a very worthy contender in Budapest Grand Prix winner Carolin WEISS (GER) in the +78kg final. Rio 2016 Olympian CERIC scored a yuko from an osoto-makikomi and WEISS could not reply with an attack of any real degree of substance.

In the first semi-final CERIC defeated Sarajevo European Cup silver medallist Milica ZABIC (SRB) to reach her first Grand Prix final. The red-headed rivals are close friends off the mat but all friendships are on hold when two judoka oppose each other on the tatami and CERIC actually submitted ZABIC with a koshi-jime strangle and then made sure the Serbian heavyweight was ok before they hugged and went their separate ways in the +78kg competition. In the second semi-final WEISS held down Tallinn European Open bronze medallist Sandra JABLONSKYTE (LTU) for 15 seconds for her second and match-winning waza-ari to setup the anticipated women’s heavyweight final.

The first bronze medal was won by JABLONSKYTE who was too strong for 18-year-old European Youth Olympics Festival bronze medallist SZIGETVARI Mercedesz (HUN). The Lithuanian scored a yuko from a harai-makikomi and moved into the osaekomi for 20 seconds as her Hungarian rival was powerless to stop JABLONSKYTE. The second bronze medal was won by Dubrovnik European Cup winner Ivana SUTALO (CRO) who defeated ZABIC in just 33 seconds. SUTALO won their only previous meeting and doubled her head-to-head advantage with a ura-nage after 10 seconds for a yuko score and then the home fighter held down the Serbian with a kesa-gatame for 20 seconds and ippon.       
WEISS, Carolin (GER) vs CERIC, Larisa (BIH)
Bronze Medal Fights
ZABIC, Milica (SRB) vs SUTALO, Ivana (CRO)

Final Results
1. CERIC, Larisa (BIH)
2. WEISS, Carolin (GER)
3. SUTALO, Ivana (CRO)
5. SZIGETVARI, Mercedesz (HUN)
5. ZABIC, Milica (SRB)
7. VUKOVIC, Katarina Lucija (CRO)
7. MARANIC, Ivana (CRO)


-90kg: GRIGOREV goes unbeaten to win his second Grand Prix gold for Russia                            

Former Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix winner Alexander GRIGOREV (RUS) clinched his second Grand Prix gold medal by defeating the top seed and Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Li KOCHMAN (ISR) in the -90kg final. GRIGOREV was making only his third international start of the year but he looked in good condition. The 21-year-old KOCHMAN is one of Israel’s big hopes for this new cycle and that started well with a silver medal today as GRIGOREV was unstoppable and wrapped up the gold with a thunderous osoto-gari earning ippon having already been in front by a yuko. 

In the first semi-final KOCHMAN edged past Oberwart European Open winner VER Gabor (HUN) by a yuko. The resilient Hungarian blocked repeated pick up attempts from his Israeli opponent but could not threaten the scoreboard as it was KOCHMAN who progressed. In the second semi-final GRIGOREV defeated European Championships bronze medallist Piotr KUCZERA (POL) with arguably the ippon of the tournament with a sensational counter throw which can be seen of the IJF Facebook page and left fans, judoka and coaches purring in the crowd.

The first bronze medal was awarded to KUCZERA after he bested German European Cup silver medallist Dario KURBJEWEIT GARCIA (GER) inside three minutes as he went ahead with a waza-ari from a ko-soto-gake and followed up on the ground with a juji-gatame to force his opponent to submit. The second bronze medal went to former Junior European silver medallist Max STEWART (GBR) who defeated VER to win his first IJF World Judo Tour medal and his country’s third bronze medal in Zagreb. STEWART, who was coached by his father and Seoul 1988 Olympic bronze medallist Dennis STEWART, hooked the inside left leg of VER for a modified uchi-mata for a superb ippon and the 23-year-old – who moved up two weight categories in the last Olympic cycle – looks to have found his ideal weight category. 
GRIGOREV, Alexander (RUS) vs KOCHMAN, Li (ISR)
Bronze Medal Fights
VER, Gabor (HUN) vs STEWART, Max (GBR)

Final Results
1. GRIGOREV, Alexander (RUS)
3. KUCZERA, Piotr (POL)
5. VER, Gabor (HUN)

-100kg: Russia’s BISULTANOV banishes Rio 2016 absence with fresh start in Zagreb           

Tyumen Grand Slam silver medallist Adlan BISULTANOV (RUS) was a leading performer in Zagreb as he defeated Budapest Grand Prix winner Michael KORREL (NED) to win his third Grand Prix gold medal. KORREL could not make it two back-to-back Grand Prix gold medals as he was on the receiving end of a drop seoi-nage which was worth a waza-ari score and was caught with a ko-uchi-gari for a yuko with a minute remaining.

BISULTANOV said: “With regard to Rio, I was absolutely ready but did not get the selection and I have no hard feelings because I was confident that Tagir KHAIBULAEV could win. KHAIBULAEV picked up a shoulder injury in Rio de Janeiro but we still all felt confident that he could do it. I was with the team in Rio as a training partner.

“Today I felt ready for the competition, I was happy with all of my fights but what made me happiest was when I was in the warm-up area before my final and I heard the awarding ceremony for -90kg and the Russian anthem played which inspired me.”

In the first semi-final KORREL saw off DVARBY by a waza-ari score in a nervy contest where both men had their share of scoring opportunities. In the second semi-final OHAT tried to put his hand down to block a hiza-guruma from BISULTANOV but the Hungarian hurt his shoulder in the process and was unable to continue.

The first bronze medal was won by 21-year-old Tallinn European Open bronze medallist Laurin BOEHLER (AUT) as OHAT could not come out to compete having injured his shoulder in his last contest. BOEHLER had never been in an IJF medal contest before and will fight for medals at this level in the future the Austrian Judo Federation will believe. The second bronze medal was won by DVARBY who defeated former Moscow Grand Slam bronze medallist Milan RANDL (SVK) after two and a half minutes of golden score with a seoi-nage earning a waza-ari score. RANDL was a spent force in golden score while DVARBY pressured the Slovakian until the score came to seal a memorable debut at -100kg having moved up from -90kg.            
BISULTANOV, Adlan (RUS) vs KORREL, Michael (NED)

Bronze Medal Fights
OHAT, Zalan (HUN) vs BOEHLER, Laurin (AUT)
DVARBY, Joakim (SWE) vs RANDL, Milan (SVK)

Final Result
2. KORREL, Michael (NED)
3. BOEHLER, Laurin (AUT)
3. DVARBY, Joakim (SWE)
5. OHAT, Zalan (HUN)
5. RANDL, Milan (SVK)
7. KRONBERGER, Christoph (AUT)

+100kg: Romanian heavyweight NATEA comes through for flying finale

World Judo Masters winner Daniel NATEA (ROU) won his first Grand Prix with a heavyweight ippon in the last contest of the Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 as he bided his time before launching former Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix silver medallist Sven HEINLE (GER) for a spectacular ippon. The men’s heavyweight final matched one of the biggest judoka in the category against one of the shortest and NATEA, who had eye-catching black tape on all of his fingers and thumbs, exploded into an o-guruma as HEINLE was floored with a minute left on the clock.


In the first semi-final NATEA shaded former Glasgow European Open winner Benjamin HARMEGNIES (BEL) by the smallest margin of a yuko score to take his expected spot in the men’s heavyweight final. In the second semi-final Budapest Grand Prix winner Stanislav BONDARENKO (UKR) fell to HEINLE on shidos 2:1 in a scoreless contest.

The first bronze medal went to BONDARENKO who dominated Sarajevo European Cup winner Vito DRAGIC (SLO). The Ukrainian opened his account with a soft uchi-mata for a yuko score and added a waza-ari from the same technique before holding down the Slovenian for 15 seconds with a kesa-gatame to win by waza-ari awasette-ippon. The second bronze medal went to a newcomer to the IJF medal podium as HARMEGNIES defeated 23-year-old Hamza OUCHANI (FRA) in a one-sided contest. HARMEGNIES opened the scoring with a harai-makikomi on the edge of the mat for a waza-ari and turned in a ushiro-kesa-gatame hold for 15 seconds and a new personal best. 
HEINLE, Sven (GER) vs NATEA, Daniel (ROU)

Bronze Medal Fights
BONDARENKO, Stanislav (UKR) vs DRAGIC, Vito (SLO)
HARMEGNIES, Benjamin (BEL) vs OUCHANI, Hamza (FRA)

Final Result
1. NATEA, Daniel (ROU)
2. HEINLE, Sven (GER)
3. BONDARENKO, Stanislav (UKR)
3. HARMEGNIES, Benjamin (BEL)
5. DRAGIC, Vito (SLO)
5. OUCHANI, Hamza (FRA)
7. HORAK, Michal (CZE)
7. COVIC, Ivan (CRO)

Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 - Croatia DAY TWO

(Via IJF)

The Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 passed the halfway point on Saturday with a day of compelling judo and a plethora of new and exciting contests as the hosts ended their wait for a home medal with gold from their inspirational Rio 2016 Olympian Barbara MATIC (CRO). 

Four categories were contested on day two as the women’s -63kg and -70kg judoka occupied the tatami along with the men’s -73kg and -81kg categories as 79 (30 women, 49 men) judoka chased IJF honours.

Before the final block on day two, which featured every medal contest on one tatami, the crowd was treated to the opening ceremony as the Croatian Judo Federation officially welcomed the delegations and spectators while the IJF officially opened the fourth edition of Croatia’s annual leg of the IJF World Judo Tour.  

-70kg gold medallist Barbara MATIC (CRO) was mobbed by her fans 

Dr. Sanda CORAK, Croatian Judo Federation President, said: “Dear competitors, sport officials, all judo friends and distinguished guests, it is my great pleasure to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the Croatian Judo Federation to the fourth edition of  IJF Grand Prix Croatia, now for the third time in Zagreb.

“As we are entering a new Olympic cycle, we are glad that we attracted about 229 competitors from 31 Countries – this is the most important senior judo competition in Croatia and I believe for some future Olympic champions this is maybe a first senior competition.

“Although as a federation we have a lot of experience in organising international judo events, every competition is a new challenge, but also a new opportunity for us to be a good host to you. I would like to thank all partners, sponsors and to all those who have worked hard and with great enthusiasm to organise this Grand Prix event. I will also like to express my gratitude to the IJF, for their continuous support of our Federation.

“Thank you all for coming, I wish you a memorable stay in Zagreb and to all the athletes – the best of luck and a safe trip back home.”

Dr. Mario ZOVKO, Personal Representative of President of the Republic of Croatia Kolinda GRABAR-KITAROVIC, said: “Judo is a great sport. We are very pleased to be staging this important event again this year in Croatia. The venue looks fantastic and we welcome you all to Zagreb for what I am sure will be an event you will remember for a long time. Good luck to all the judoka.”

Mr. Vladimir BARTA, IJF Head Sport Director, said: “Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, it is a pleasure to be here in the beautiful city of Zagreb for Croatia’s fourth IJF Grand Prix. This Grand Prix is the first IJF event following the Rio 2016 Olympics as we start a new Olympic cycle towards Tokyo 2020 but also future World Championships in Budapest, Baku and then Tokyo.

“I would like to thank Croatian Judo Federation President Dr. Sanda CORAK and her team for the excellent organisation of this event. I wish good luck to all the competitors and on behalf of the IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER, I declare the Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 open.”

The distinguished guests in attendance on day two included Croatia’s own 2014 US Open tennis champion and Rio 2016 Olympian Marin CILIC (above - left) who joined former judo international and 2013 European Championships silver medallist Tomislav MARIJANOVIC (above - right) in the stands just in time to watch Barbara MATIC win gold for the hosts.

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-63kg: TALACH wears IJF gold for the first time for Poland

Tallinn European Open bronze medallist Karolina TALACH (POL) had the measure of Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Diana DZHIGAROS (RUS) in the first final on day two in Zagreb. Russia’s 21-year-old Junior World Championships silver medallist was making her Grand Prix debut and was an impressive performer despite ending up second best in the final as TALACH took advantage of a half-hearted sode-tsurikomi-goshi attempt for a yuko score which settled the contest at the end of the four minutes.

In the first semi-final TALACH defeated 19-year-old Junior European Championships silver medallist Andreja LESKI (SLO) in added time. There was nothing to separate the gold medal hopefuls in the regulation four minutes so golden score was required and in the second minute TALACH drove over her opponent for a yuko score with a tani-otoshi to secure her place in the final.

In the second semi-final DZHIGAROS came from behind to beat Tallinn European Open silver medallist Magdalena KRSSAKOVA (AUT). The Russian fighter was countered for a yuko but fought back to win by ippon as she held down KRSSAKOVA with a mune-gatame for 20 seconds and ippon. 

The first bronze medal was won by world number 50 KRSSAKOVA against former Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze medallist Agata OZDOBA (POL) in the first contest between them. The world number 51 from Poland was looking to move above her opponent on the IJF World Ranking List but instead the Austrian increased the gap between them by countering the former for a yuko after 46 seconds of golden score. The second bronze medal was won by 22-year-old Rotem SHOR (ISR) as she beat junior LESKI to seal a place on the IJF medal podium for the first time. LESKI finished fifth for the second successive year in Croatia as she was thrown by a ouchi-gari for ippon after 90 seconds to conclude a strong showing for SHOR.        
DZHIGAROS, Diana (RUS) vs TALACH, Karolina (POL)
Bronze Medal Fights
KRSSAKOVA, Magdalena (AUT) vs OZDOBA, Agata (POL)
LESKI, Andreja (SLO) vs SHOR, Rotem (ISR)

Final Results
1. TALACH, Karolina (POL)
3. KRSSAKOVA, Magdalena (AUT)
3. SHOR, Rotem (ISR)
5. OZDOBA, Agata (POL)
5. LESKI, Andreja (SLO)
7. YVIN, Cloe (FRA)

-70kg: Happy homecoming Grand Prix hat-trick for Croatia’s MATIC  

Former Junior world champion Barbara MATIC (CRO) won her home event for the first time as she delighted her fans with her third career Grand Prix victory. MATIC, who has realistic ambitions to be her country’s first Olympic judo medallist, had previously won in Tbilisi 2014 and Qingdao 2015, and had an appealing assignment in the final against former world bronze medallist Katarzyna KLYS (POL) who was physically the more imposing and more experienced of the two judoka. Croatia’s MATIC won the battle of Rio 2016 Olympians and the hosts’ first medal at the Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 to a rapturous ovation as a shido against KLYS for passivity after two minutes was the pivotal moment of the scoreless final. MATIC was inundated for autograph requests and pictures by a large group of excited children and gratefully satisfied them before being relieved of her duties – to get ready for the awarding ceremony – by her younger sister Brigita MATIC who will be in -78kg action on Sunday.   

In the first semi-final KLYS bested Sofia European Open winner Anka POGACNIK (SLO) after 35 seconds of golden score as the Polish judoka threw with a harai-makikomi for ippon to confidently move into the gold medal contest. In the second semi-final MATIC defeated Tallinn European Open winner Anna BERNHOLM (SWE) by a waza-ari with a makikomi effort as the home judoka guaranteed Croatia their first medal of the competition while her Swedish victim moved into one of the two bronze medal contests.

The first bronze medal was claimed by teenage Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Aleksandra SAMARDZIC (BIH) who beat BERNHOLM as the Swede is evidently still finding her feet at her heavier weight category of -70kg. The contest was scoreless going into the final 30 seconds until SAMARDZIC beautifully threw with an uchi-mata for a waza-ari and a popular result with the Croatian fans. The second bronze medal was captured by POGACNIK who beat Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games winner GERCSAK Szabina (HUN). European Championships bronze medallist GERCSAK is one of the most accomplished young judoka to come out of Hungary and has a bright future ahead of her at the senior stage but had to settle for fifth-place today as a weak osoto-gari was blocked and countered with an osoto-makikomi for ippon with 20 seconds remaining.   
MATIC, Barbara (CRO) vs KLYS, Katarzyna (POL)

Bronze Medal Fights
BERNHOLM, Anna (SWE) vs SAMARDZIC, Aleksandra (BIH)
POGACNIK, Anka (SLO) vs GERCSAK, Szabina (HUN)

Final Results
1. MATIC, Barbara (CRO)
2. KLYS, Katarzyna (POL)
3. SAMARDZIC, Aleksandra (BIH)
5. GERCSAK, Szabina (HUN)
7. YEATS-BROWN, Katie-Jemima (GBR)
7. POLLERES, Michaela (AUT)


-73kg: Number one seed KANIVETS swoops for Ukrainian gold          

Budapest Grand Prix silver medallist Dmytro KANIVETS (UKR) showed why he was the top -73kg seed in Zagreb as he won all four of his contests to register his first IJF Grand Prix gold medal. KANIVETS faced Tommy MACIAS (SWE) in the second final on day two. The 23-year-old MACIAS, who failed to qualify for Rio 2016, lost out to KANIVETS – who also fell short in his qualification bid for South America’s first Olympics – as the Ukrainian hunted down his opponent to eventually score a yuko from a committed ashi-waza attack.  


In the first semi-final KANIVETS (UKR) erased Akil GJAKOVA (KOS) by a waza-ari score as the latter saw his bid to become his country’s first male IJF World Judo Tour medallist move into the bronze medal equation. In the second semi-final MACIAS prevailed against Sofia European bronze medallist Tohar BUTBUL (ISR) by two shidos 0:2 in a scoreless contest.

The first bronze medal was won by Tyumen Grand Slam silver medallist Arbi KHAMKHOEV (RUS) who scored his waza-ari and sat on that advantage for the remainder of the contest to safely secure a podium position. Former Junior European Championships bronze medallist BUTBUL was caught with a ko-uchi-gari for a yuko but the score was removed as upon review it was evident that the Israeli had turned out onto his front to avoid giving away the score. KHAMKHOEV countered a sode-tsurikomi-goshi for a waza-ari and avoided any further contact of note to win the first -73kg bronze medal. The second bronze medal was won by 19-year-old Chirchik Junior Asian Cup silver medallist Sukhrob TURSUNOV (UZB) who stopped GJAKOVA from becoming Kosovo’s first male IJF World Judo Tour medallist. Kosovo’s women have been making history year on year in judo and no more so than this summer when double world champion Majlinda KELMENDI became her country’s first Olympic gold medallist. GJAKOVA sensed his chance to continue Kosovo’s run today but he fell short as TURSUNOV lifted him up with a ura-nage for ippon.             
MACIAS, Tommy (SWE) vs KANIVETS, Dmytro (UKR)

Bronze Medal Fights
GJAKOVA, Akil (KOS) vs TURSUNOV, Sukhrob (UZB)

Final Results
1. KANIVETS, Dmytro (UKR)
2. MACIAS, Tommy (SWE)
3. TURSUNOV, Sukhrob (UZB)
5. BUTBUL, Tohar (ISR)
5. GJAKOVA, Akil (KOS)
7. ZINGG, Anthony (GER)
7. TURNER, Alexander (USA)

-81kg: KHUBETSOV proves his worth for Russia as he becomes a consistent force 

Former Baku Grand Slam winner Alan KHUBETSOV (RUS) won Russia’s first gold medal at the Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 by beating Havana Grand Prix bronze medallist CSOKNYAI Laszlo (HUN) in the -81kg final. CSOKNYAI was overwhelmed in the final as he lost to the 23-year-old by a waza-ari from a yoko-otoshi having already been behind to a yuko. KHUBETSOV was not at his best today as he failed to win any of his contests by ippon but despite his inability to conjure up some of the explosive ippon judo we know he is capable of, the Russian was ahead of the -81kg field and is on course to become Russia’s number two at this weight behind Olympic champion Khasan KHALMURZAEV (RUS). 

In the first semi-final KHUBETSOV defeated teammate Aslan LAPPINAGOV (RUS) by a yuko in a contest which will have ramifications for future international selections for both men. KHUBETSOV shut out his colleague to advance into the final as both men were left to their own devices with no Russian coaches matside as is customary when two judoka from the same country are squaring off. In the second semi-final CSOKNYAI, who lost out to world champion NAGASE Takanori (JPN) in his only contest at Rio 2016, bested Samsun Grand Prix winner Damian SZWARNOWIECKI (POL) by osaekomi as the broad Hungarian used all of his bulky 81kg frame to press down onto the Polish judoka for all 20 seconds. 

The first bronze medal was won by Tallinn European Open bronze medallist SZWARNOWIECKI who conquered teammate and former Warsaw European Open bronze medallist Jakub KUBIENIEC (POL). A waza-ari in favour of SZWARNOWIECKI was the only score of the contest as Poland continued to star in Zagreb. The winner picked up a knock in the last exchanges and was carried off the mat by his defeated colleague KUBIENIEC in a moment that was richly-applauded by the sizable crowd. The second bronze medal was also won by Tyumen Grand Slam winner LAPPINAGOV who submitted Sarajevo European Cup winner Bojan DOSEN (SRB) with a koshi-jime strangle. DOSEN, who was fifth at the Budapest Grand Prix this year, was surprised on the ground by Grand Prix debutant LAPPINAGOV who kept rotating until the strangle was fully on and the Serbian had to tap out.                                 


Bronze Medal Fights

Final Result
2. CSOKNYAI, Laszlo (HUN)
5. DOSEN, Bojan (SRB)
7. MUSIL, Jaromir (CZE)
7. CHEN, Asaf (ISR)

Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 - Croatia DAY ONE

(Via IJF)


The Zagreb Grand Prix 2016, the first Grand Prix of the new Olympic cycle, opened on Friday with new names cast forward into the spotlight on the IJF World Judo Tour stage at the Dom Sportova. 

The first IJF event following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games starts a new chapter for the sport as attention turns to judo’s homecoming at Tokyo 2020 but also the annual World Championships in 2017 (Budapest, Hungary), 2018 (Baku, Azerbaijan) and 2019 (Tokyo, Japan).

Croatia’s fourth IJF Grand Prix, the third in the capital city following an inaugural edition in Rijeka in 2013, started with five weight categories engaged on the two tatami as 81 judoka (42 women, 39 men) were out to win the first IJF honours in the second half of the IJF World Judo Tour 2016.

 The Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 is the first IJF event following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games 

France made a flying start in Zagreb as they won two gold medals and two bronze medals to control the medal table from the outset and they will undoubtedly add to that tally on the coming days. Slovenia are second with one gold medal, one fifth-place and one seventh-pace ahead of Poland and Serbia who also struck gold.  

Croatia’s women came closest to the podium as the hosts produced one fifth-place finish and two seventh-place finishes but can look forward to two more days of home competition as their plentiful ranks will include the MATIC sisters, Barbara and Brigita, who will campaign at -70kg and -78kg respectively.

Day two will see four weight categories in action at the Dom Sportova as the men’s -73kg and -81kg categories will be joined by the women’s -63kg and -70kg categories. 

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-48kg: Serbia’s NIKOLIC strikes first in Zagreb         

Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Milica NIKOLIC (SRB) became the first Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 gold medallist as she defeated Tallinn European Open gold medallist Noa MINSKER (ISR) to secure her maiden IJF title. NIKOLIC is part of a nine-strong Serbian team in Croatia and gave her team an ideal start as she threw MINSKER for ippon with an ouchi-gari after exactly 80 seconds and will now be waiting patiently for the new IJF World Ranking List to be released on Monday after picking up 300 points. 

In the first semi-final NIKOLIC surpassed Orenburg European Cup winner Anastasia PAVLENKO (RUS) by waza-ari awasette-ippon with two minutes left of the regulation four minutes. In the second semi-final MINSKER, who produced a beautiful ippon seoi-nage to defeat home fighter Sara MATIJEVIC (CRO) in the first quarter-final of the competition, countered an uchi-mata from Tallinn European Open runner-up Ewa KONIECZNY (POL) after 26 seconds of golden score for a match-winning waza-ari as her coach Shany HERSHKO jumped out of his chair in celebration.

The first bronze medal contest was won by 20-year-old German European Cup bronze medallist Cheyenne MOUNIER (FRA) who could become France’s number one at this weight. The youngster defeated KONIECZNY after six seconds of golden score as what both judoka failed to achieve in the regulation four minutes, in threatening the scoreboard, MOUNIER instantly accomplished in added time with a sode-tsurikomi-goshi for a yuko score. The second bronze medal was won by 25-year-old IJF World Judo Tour debutant Fjolla KELMENDI (KOS), the cousin of Olympic champion Majlinda KELMENDI, who stylishly defeated PAVLENKO. The Kosovo judoka was making her return to the competition after four years away from the sport where she focused purely on her academic studies. KELMENDI was cheered on by her heroic cousin – who at the end of the day came to the tatami in her judogi for a special session with young judoka – and took the lead with a yuko from a tani-otoshi before making sure of victory with one second left as she countered the Russian with a osoto-makikomi and screamed with delight as she started her IJF career with a fine performance.
Bronze Medal Fights
PAVLENKO, Anastasia (RUS) vs KELMENDI, Fjolla (KOS)

Final Results
1. NIKOLIC, Milica (SRB)
3. MOUNIER, Cheyenne (FRA)
3. KELMENDI, Fjolla (KOS)
5. PAVLENKO, Anastasia (RUS)
7. VRSIC, Kristina (SLO)

-52kg: Pole position for PIENKOWSKA                     

Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Karolina PIENKOWSKA (POL) won her first IJF title with an efficient performance which culminated with a win against Junior world champion Distria KRASNIQI (KOS). PIENKOWSKA, who had only graced an IJF medal podium once before at the aforementioned event, was the surprise winner as she countered a ouchi-gari attempt from KRASNIQI who failed to commit to the attack and was caught with ashi-waza for a yuko score. The 20-year-old from Kosovo, the long-time understudy to Olympic and double world champion Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS), lost out as the tactically astute Polish judoka flirted with danger as she was passive and unwilling to attack but the clock ran out on the former who ended with silver and her country’s second medal on day one.


In the first semi-final KRASNIQI rushed past Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Larisa FLORIAN (ROU) in just 14 seconds as she submitted the Romanian with shime-waza to advance to the gold medal contest. In the second semi-final Rio 2016 Olympian Angelica DELGADO (USA) fell to PIENKOWSKA (POL) by ippon from a tomoe-nage.

The first bronze medal was clinched by Pan American Championships bronze medallist DELGADO in a thoroughly entertaining contest against Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Tena SIKIC (CRO) which went down to the final second. DELGADO started a new quest for the Olympics by winning her first IJF medal as she scored a waza-ari from a sensational sasae-tsurikomi-ashi and followed through into osaekomi for a yuko but home judoka SIKIC showed her spirit as she crucially escaped after 14 seconds when one second later would have given the American victory. Miami’s DELGADO went back to her previous technique but this time it was well scouted by SIKIC who countered for a waza-ari of her own and piled on the pressure in the closing seconds but time ran out on her bid for a home medal. The second bronze medal was won by London 2012 Olympian Kelly EDWARDS (GBR) who floored FLORIAN with a must-see drop seoi-nage which sent the Romanian hurtling through the air and flat onto her back for the maximum score. EDWARDS missed out on qualification for Rio 2016 after an injury-ravaged qualification campaign but has now won IJF silverware for the first time in her career at her first attempt in this cycle and will hope to for more of the same as she targets Tokyo 2020 and major honours.
KRASNIQI, Distria (KOS) vs PIENKOWSKA, Karolina (POL)

Bronze Medal Fights
DELGADO, Angelica (USA) vs SIKIC, Tena (CRO)
FLORIAN, Larisa (ROU) vs EDWARDS, Kelly (GBR)

Final Results
1. PIENKOWSKA, Karolina (POL)
2. KRASNIQI, Distria (KOS)
3. DELGADO, Angelica (USA)
3. EDWARDS, Kelly (GBR)
5. SIKIC, Tena (CRO)
5. FLORIAN, Larisa (ROU)

-57kg: BENARROCHE controls Russian foe for first Grand Prix title  

Madrid European Open winner Lola BENARROCHE (FRA) defeated Tyumen Grand Slam silver medallist Daria MEZHETCKAIA (RUS) in the -57kg final in the last contest on day one in Zagreb. BENARROCHE had never medalled on the IJF stage but that was not evident today as she looked comfortable under the gaze of IJF World Judo Tour and every single movement was calculated. The former Junior World Championships bronze medallist from Russia was aiming to win her first gold medal on the IJF circuit but BENARROCHE had other ideas as she broke the deadlock with a yuko from a tani-toshi and added a second score six seconds from time with a osoto-gari as the winner showed her best judo to top the podium for in-form France. 


In the first semi-final Tallinn European Open silver medallist Bekky LIVESEY (GBR) was held down by BENARROCHE for 15 seconds as she lost out by waza-ari awasette-ippon. In the second semi-final MEZHETCKAIA won an all-Russian duel against Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Natalia GOLOMIDOVA (RUS) via uchi-mata.

The first bronze medal was won by GOLOMIDOVA who swept aside Warsaw European Open silver medallist Sappho COBAN (GER) with ease. The 22-year-old German had been in this position twice before and on both occasions finished fifth at Grand Prix and achieved an unwanted hat-trick today as GOLOMIDOVA graced the IJF Grand Prix medal podium at her first attempt. The Russian chalked up three yuko scores and was registering at will as COBAN was off the pace with no sign of her trademark uchi-mata. A fourth and final score came just before the time elapsed in the form of a waza-ari from ashi-waza as GOLOMIDOVA comprehensively captured bronze. The second bronze medal was won by LIVESEY who saw off Dubrovnik European Cup winner Johanna MUELLER (GER) to earn Great Britain’s second medal on day one. Former Grand Prix silver medallist and former Grand Prix bronze medallist MUELLER was undone by two waza-ari scores as St Helens product LIVESEY scored with a tani-otoshi before countering her German foe with a osoto-makikomi to win by wazari awasette-ippon.            


Bronze Medal Fights
GOLOMIDOVA, Natalia (RUS) vs COBAN, Sappho (GER)
LIVESEY, Bekky (GBR) vs MUELLER, Johanna (GER)

Final Results 
3. GOLOMIDOVA, Natalia (RUS)
3. LIVESEY, Bekky (GBR)
5. COBAN, Sappho (GER)
5. MUELLER, Johanna (GER)
7. DURBACH, Manon (LUX)


-60kg: MANQUEST makes mark for France  

Glasgow European Open bronze medallist Vincent MANQUEST (FRA) won his first IJF gold medal as he submitted former Qingdao Grand Prix bronze medallist Robert MSHVIDOBADZE (RUS) for the top prize in Croatia. Both judoka were confident of wearing IJF gold for the first time but the Russian was never a threat in the final as MANQUEST brilliantly executed a juji-gatame after just 66 seconds which forced the former to submit and concede the title. MSHVIDOBADZE has not fulfilled his potential and at 27 will find international starts hard to come by now among the stacked Russian squad while MANQUEST is only 22 and will see this win as the turning point in his career at the elite level. 


In the semi-finals MANQUEST (FRA) defeated Tallinn European Open winner Joaquin GOMIS (ESP) by ippon after two minutes before Tallinn European Open silver medallist Philip GRAF (GER) succumb to MSHVIDOBADZE at the same stage. A ko-uch-gari and a ko-uchi-gake from the Russian were each awarded a waza-ari to send MSHVIDOBADZE into the final.

The first bronze medal was won by Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Cedric REVOL (FRA) who controlled GRAF for all five minutes as France continued their flying start to day one. The 22-year-old Frenchman went ahead with a low right-sided ouchi-gari and added a waza-ari with an ippon seoi-nage with just under two minutes remaining. GRAF could not find a route back into the contest as he was second best and had to settle for fifth-place in Croatia. The second bronze medal went to GOMIS who claimed a first IJF medal by defeating Taipei Asian Open winner Matjaz TRBOVC (SLO) with a neat piece of shime-waza. TRBOVC, who finished fifth at the Rijeka Grand Prix in Croatia in 2013, thought he was able to withstand the pressure but the Spaniard tightened his grip and the Slovenian had to tap out. After securing the best result of his career in just 51 seconds in the final block, GOMIS burst into tears and fell to his knees as he showed how important this part of the Olympic cycle is to emerging judoka.      

Bronze Medal Fights
GRAF, Philip (GER) vs REVOL, Cedric (FRA)
GOMIS, Joaquin (ESP) vs TRBOVC, Matjaz (SLO)


Final Results
1. MANQUEST, Vincent (FRA)
3. REVOL, Cedric (FRA)
3. GOMIS, Joaquin (ESP)
5. GRAF, Philip (GER)
5. TRBOVC, Matjaz (SLO)
7. RAHIMA, Alon (ISR)
7. DIAZ, Adonis (USA)

-66kg: Jubilant JEREB rises to world stage for Slovenia   

Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix bronze medallist Andraz JEREB (SLO) won Grand Prix gold in his first final at this level as he narrowly defeated former Junior World Championships bronze medallist Baruch SHMAILOV (ISR) in a highly-competitive gold medal contest. JEREB and SHMAILOV matched each other for four minutes and 51 seconds until the Slovenian countered the Israeli as he rolled him over for a yuko score which was the decisive action as the late score gave JEREB a golden glow and offered his country their first medal in Zagreb.


In the first semi-final former Miami Grand Prix winner Abdula ABDULZHALILOV (RUS) lost out to SHMAILOV by a waza-ari having originally been in front by a yuko score. In the second semi-final JEREB (SLO) literally swept aside 20-year-old former Junior European Championships bronze medallist Denis VIERU (MDA) to reach his first IJF World Judo Tour final.

The first bronze medal was won by Jeju Grand Prix bronze medallist Tal FLICKER (ISR) who launched VIERU with an incredible o-goshi for ippon with 38 seconds left. VIERU had fought well and routinely attacked but an moment of magic from the Israeli saw him home having led by a yuko from a yoko-otoshi. The second bronze medal went to ABDULZHALILOV who won his third Grand Prix medal at the expense of Lima Pan American Open bronze medallist Ilija CIGANOVIC (SRB) who was battling for an IJF medal for the first time. ABDULZHALILOV delivered the only score of the contest as a seoi-otoshi drove the Serbian fighter over and a waza-ari for the Russian gave him a platform to grasp control of the contest as CIGANOVIC was denied.

Top seed and Tyumen Grand Slam silver medallist Anzaur ARDANOV (RUS) was left disappointed as he suffered two back-to-back defeats by ippon having won his first contest by the maximum score to finish in seventh-place.              
JEREB, Andraz (SLO) vs SHMAILOV, Baruch (ISR)

Bronze Medal Fights
VIERU, Denis (MDA) vs FLICKER, Tal (ISR)

Final Result
1. JEREB, Andraz (SLO)
2. SHMAILOV, Baruch (ISR)
5. VIERU, Denis (MDA)
7. ARDANOV, Anzaur (RUS)
7. VAN GANSBEKE, Kenneth (BEL)