Saturday, July 1, 2017

Hohhot Grand Prix 2017, China PREVIEW

Inner Mongolia plays host with 60 days to go before the 2017 Suzuki World Judo Championships 

The fast-paced IJF World Judo Tour, the international elite judo circuit, makes one last stop this weekend before August’s World Championships as the inaugural Hohhot Grand Prix in Inner Mongolia, China, provides the final stage before judo’s annual extravaganza.

An unremitting season heats up from Friday to Sunday at the sun-kissed Inner Mongolia Stadium as 226 judoka from 26 nations will experience Hohhot for the first time in a final pursuit of World Ranking List points and a morale-boosting performance before the Worlds in Budapest, Hungary (28 August – 3 September). 

The official draw of #JudoHohhot2017

China’s annual Grand Prix, which was hosted in Qingdao from 2009 – 2016, has turned to pastures new this year in a new Olympic cycle as the Chinese Judo Association – who have fielded a 41-strong team (25 men, 16 women) – are striving to develop judo across the country.

Olympic champion Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) competes in the heavyweight category for the fourth time ahead of an anticipated tilt for gold in Budapest. The Czech judoka is one of the stars in action at #JudoHohhot2017 along with Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist DORJSUREN Sumiya (MGL), former world champion MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg (MGL) and reigning world champion HAGA Ryunosuke (JPN) who won bronze at the Olympics last year.

Mr. Mohamed MERIDJA (above - centre), IJF Education and Coaching Director, opened the draw in Hohhot.

“Dear judo friends, ladies and gentlemen, after a great competition at the Cancun Grand Prix, we are now here in China in the very nice city of Hohhot. The IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER extends his appreciation to the organisers and the participants and wishes you all the best at this Grand Prix in China. We are convinced that the Grand Prix will be great for the development of judo here in Hohhot and all over the country. We wish you all a lot of success.”

Mr. LI Zhiyou (above - centre), Chinese Judo Association Vice President, said: “Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media, good afternoon, today we are gathered to hold the draw for Hohhot Grand Prix. It will be a marvellous competition featuring competitors from China and abroad. I welcome all the guests and I extend my gratitude to all media for the promotion of judo in this region.

“This is the first time we host the Chinese Grand Prix in Hohhot, we have a great entry and many great champions will be crowned. We will boost the level of judo here and the understanding of the sport for all fans around the world. I wish everyone a wonderful time in Hohhot and good luck at the competition.”

Beijing 2008 Olympic champion YANG Xiuli (right) of China was among the coaches following the draw 


Use #JudoHohhot2017 to join in with the social media discussion 

World Judo Masters bronze medallist Maryna CHERNIAK (UKR) has been highly competitive in 2017 after taking silver at the Tbilisi Grand Prix and losing bronze medal contests at the Baku Grand Slam and European Championships. The world number 12 could capture her 10th career Grand Prix medal on day one with her status as the top seed meaning that she will avoid the best ranked ranked judoka until the latter stages in Inner Mongolia. European Championships silver medallist Irina DOLGOVA (RUS) will be expected to return to an IJF podium for the first time since 2015 while 16-year-old sensation and European Championships winner Daria BILODID (UKR) could steal the show on her IJF World Judo Tour debut. 

Former world champion MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg (MGL) will try to make the grade in the -52kg category after a on-off run in the category from 2012-2014. MUNKHBAT became the first Mongolian woman to win world gold in 2013 when she took the -48kg title in Rio de Janeiro and at 27 has time on her side in this cycle to be competitive and successful at the heavier weight on the road to Tokyo 2020. Former Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix winner PARK Da Sol (KOR) and former Asian Championships bronze medallist RIM Song Sim (PRK) could factor in a category which Asia may dominate from the outset. 

Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist DORJSUREN Sumiya (MGL) is the number one seed in the -57kg category. The 26-year-old, who recently completed a training camp in Japan, has won bronze at the Tokyo Grand Slam and silver at the Dusseldorf Grand Prix since the Games and is now focused on winning gold in Hohhot ahead of the Worlds in August. Ekaterinburg Grand Slam bronze medallist Jessica KLIMKAIT (CAN) and compatriot Catherine BEAUCHEMIN-PINARD (CAN) are closing in on the world’s top 10 while Tbilisi Grand Prix winner Irina ZABLUDINA (RUS) will be looking for more Grand Prix gold. 

European Championships bronze medallist Kathrin UNTERWURZACHER (AUT) is a five-time Grand Prix winner but has never won a Worlds medal and fill feel that this is his year to change that. UNTERWURZACHER, who finished seventh at the Olympics, famously won the Tokyo Grand Slam to close her 2016 and can beat anyone in the world in any location. Two-time Grand Prix bronze medallist Katharina HAECKER (AUT) fights every day to raise the bar for judo in her country and continues to make progress on the IJF stage. Former Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist Edwige GWEND (ITA) will be in action along with double world bronze medallist TASHIRO Miku (JPN). 

European Championships bronze medallist Barbara MATIC (CRO) can seal a seeded position for the World Championships by winning gold in China. World number seven MATIC, 22, has won bronze medals at the Baku Grand Slam, Antalya Grand Prix and continental championships in her last three events and is therefore one of the form judoka in the category. Asian Championships silver medallist KIM Seongyeon (KOR) will be looking to record a win in his first appearance on the IJF World Judo Tour this year while the incoming Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist MAEDA Naeko (JPN) makes her first Grand Prix start. 

Tokyo Grand Slam winner SATO Ruika (JPN) is a 10-time Grand Slam medallist and a four-time Grand Prix medallist but has never won Grand Prix gold. World number 11 SATO took silver at the Paris Grand Slam in her only international event this year and starts as the favourite at -78kg. Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Karen STEVENSON (NED) will try to stay as close as she can to world leader STEENHUIS Guusje (NED) in the rankings while Bucharest European Open winner Bernadette GRAF (AUT) competes in her new weight at an IJF event for the first time. 
IJF Grand Prix rookie YAMAMOTO Sara (JPN) will look to make a splash in the women’s heavyweight category on Sunday. The 22-year-old has no experience of the IJF World Judo Tour but that rarely matters for the Japanese who have a conveyor belt of talent who tend to succeed on the international stage with alarming ease. Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Yelyzaveta KALANINA (UKR) will be the top seed and needs to medal to move into the top 10 on the World Ranking List while Cancun Grand Prix winner SUTALO Ivana (CRO) will be targeting back-to-back IJF gold for the first time in her career.  

World number eight DASHDAVAA Amartuvshin (MGL) goes for glory in the -60kg category as the top seed. The five-time Grand Prix winner won in China last year and will expect a repeat performance on day one. Asian judoka dominate the eight seeded positions with former world champion GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL) and former Paris Grand Slam winner SHISHIME Toru (JPN) joining DASHDAVAA as the favourites on Friday while Russia’s Ekaterinburg Grand Slam bronze medallist Albert OGUZOV and European champion Robert MSHVIDOBADZE will be very credible challengers.    

European champion Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) will compete for the second time on the IJF World Judo Tour in 2017. The 29-year-old won his last IJF medal in 2015 (Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze) but is one of the top seeds in Hohhot after his continental heroics. Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist DOVDON Altansukh (MGL) is the number one seed but has Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Yakub SHAMILOV (RUS), former world bronze medallist Kamal KHAN-MAGOMEDOV (RUS) and three-time Grand Prix winner TAKAICHI Kengo (JPN) for company at -66kg. 

Mongolia’s surprise -60kg pick for Rio 2016, TSENDOCHIR Tsogtbaatar, has resurfaced and will compete for the first time since his third round exit in Brazil. The 21-year-old, a two-time Junior World Championships silver medallist, has moved up not one but two weight categories and so he will start over with no world ranking and will face one of the top seeds early on. European Championships bronze medallist Tommy MACIAS (SWE) will present his strongest bid yet for a first Grand Prix gold and the world number four is the number one seed. Former World Judo Masters winner Denis IARTCEV (RUS), Qingdao Grand Prix silver medallist SAIYINJIRIGALA (CHN) and Olympic bronze medallist Dirk VAN TICHELT (BEL) are all seeded and among the top contenders for Hohhot gold.  

European champion Alan KHUBETSOV (RUS) ruled his continent in April for the first time and will be the focus of the category on Saturday. World number five KHUBETSOV, 24, has a major chance of not only inclusion in his country’s team for the World Championships but competing for a medal in Budapest in one of Russia’s favourite weight categories. European Championships bronze medallist Aslan LAPPINAGOV (RUS) has it all to do to earn selection with not only KHUBETSOV but also Olympic champion Khasan KHALMURZAEV (RUS) ahead of him. Baku Grand Slam silver medallist Saeid MOLLAEI (IRI) could come into the medal equation while Cancun Grand Prix silver medallist Etienne BRIAND (CAN) has now established himself at this level. 

World number one and European Championships winner Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) makes one final outing before his pursuit of Worlds gold in August. The 25-year-old Serbian judoka would love to win his first Grand Prix title in his last event before Budapest where he hopes to win his country’s first world judo title. European Championships bronze medallist Khusen KHALMURZAEV (RUS) is a consistent force on the IJF World Judo Tour and will most likely be leaving China with some extra luggage. 

World number seven Martin PACEK (SWE) is a methodical judoka who is positive and precise in everything he does. The Swede can unlock the defence of the most game of opposition and is a complex challenge for anyone who opposes him. World champion HAGA Ryunosuke (JPN), who took bronze at the Olympics, returns to international action in Hohhot before defending his world title and red backpatch in Hungary. Tokyo Grand Slam winner Kirill DENISOV (RUS) has strolled into the -100kg category and could repeat his victory in China from a year ago. 

Asian Championships winner KIM Sung-Min (KOR) and world bronze medallist Iakiv KHAMMO (UKR) will be taking aim at the +100kg title on Sunday while -100kg Olympic champion Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) makes his fourth heavyweight appearance on the IJF World Judo Tour before a potential dream all-gold backpatch showdown with Teddy RINER (FRA) at the Worlds. KRPALEK conquered the world at -100kg and could be the greatest threat to the seven-year unbeaten record of French master RINER who has not been in action since Rio 2016. 

11:00 Preliminaries on two mats
17:00 Final block on one mat

Women: -48kg, -52kg, -57kg
Men: -60kg, -66kg  

11:00 Preliminaries on two mats
15:55 Opening ceremony
17:00 Final block on one mat

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

11:00 Preliminaries on two mats
17:00 Final block on one mat

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

Location: Inner Mongolia Stadium

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