GRAND SLAM PARIS PREVIEW, During two days, the world of judo will be staring at the ‘Palais Omnisports Paris Bercy’. The Judo Grand Slam, Paris 2012, will indeed have a perfume of Olympic Games, since it is the last Grand Slam, which will award points for the London 2012 Olympic qualification.
In two weeks time, the Judo Grand Prix, Düsseldorf 2012, followed by the continental championships will give the last points that are synonyms of a sesame for the big summer Rendez-Vous.
Until the final list of qualified athletes that will go to London, is known (May 1st 2012), 594 competitors – 353 men and 241 women from 97 countries – are going to compete here in Paris.
The smallest category in number of participants, the female -70kg, will count no less than 31 competitors, while many more will once again be present in the men’s -73kg and -81kg, with respectively 58 and 62 athletes.
The top seeded athlete is FUKUMI Tomoko, from Japan, world number 2, who in the absence of his compatriot, ASAMI Haruna (current World Champion, silver medallist of the Masters, last January, and winner of the 2011 tournament), will act as the favorite. But the young Sarah MENEZES (BRA), who is now at the third world ranking position, will also be one of the favorites of tomorrow’s competition, while the current Olympic Champion, Romania’s Alina DUMITRU will be a strong outsider. In front of their fans, the French athletes, CEBO, BENABDELOUAHED, GABRIELLI and PAYET, will try to conquer the public in the absence of their leader Frédérique JOSSINET.
In this category, another Japanese athlete, NISHIDA Yuka (world number one), who was not present on the occasion of the last Judo Grand Slam in Tokyo but who won the Judo Master in Almaty, is the logical favorite. In the same half of the draw, Majlinda KELMENDI, who remains on a nice winning streak at the end of the 2011 season, will fight under the colors of the IJF.
In the second part of the draw, MUNKHBAATAR Bundmaa (MGL – World number three) and Soraya HADDAD (ALG – World number four) could meet in the semifinals, if they are not stopped before that stage of the competition by any other seeded players who will be keen to approach the podium.
This weight category looks very tough and despite the absence of world number one, MATSUMOTO Kaori (JPN), it is not easy to make a forecast on the composition of the podium at the end of the first day. Automne PAVIA (FRA) will attempt to repeat her last year festival, which allowed her to climb onto the top step of the podium and to play the Marseillaise in front of a captivated audience.
But the French have much to do with the presence of world number three, Telma MONTEIRO (POR – silver medallist in Almaty), and world number 4, Corina CAPRIORIU (ROU), although both athletes are placed in the second half of the draw. Other competitors, such as Kifayat GASIMOVA (AZE), Hedvig KARAKAS (HUN) or Marti MALLOY (USA) will also be among the competitors to be followed.
In this category, the absence of the first five world ranked athletes must be noted. Maybe, the race to get the precious qualifying points, is not that crucial for them. Nevertheless, Gévrise EMANE (FRA) will watch the tournament from the stands, and she will carefully pay attention to the fights, in order to get any information that may ultimately help her to win the Olympic title that she is still missing.
Her French rival, the young Clarisse AGBEGNENOU, will also be in the stands, because of her suspension for failing to make the weight in Almaty. Therefore, this is Elisabeth WILLEBOORDSE (NED), who is the number one seeded in the category. We will also follow the infighting between the two Israelis, Yarden GERBI and Alice SCHLESSINGER, although SCHLESSINGER seems now to have a significant advantage over GERBI from the perspective of the qualification for the Olympics.
The ‘Queen of Bercy’, with 9 gold medals at the Paris Tournament, Lucie DECOSSE (FRA – World number one) remains on an impressive series of victories. After her world title last year, also here in Paris, she won the title on the occasion of the Masters, a few weeks ago in Almaty, winning the only medal of the French delegation.
In the absence of his eternal rival, Edith BOSCH, of the Netherlands, the French will follow the two Japanese, KUNIHARA and TACHIMOTO, respectively third and fourth in the World Ranking, even though both athletes are in the second part of the draw.
This is probably the strongest category of the day, as the top five world ranked competitors are present in Paris. Will the world number one, the Japanese OGATA, held her rank? Will Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) be able to repeat her performance of the last World Championships, where she won the gold medal in front of all the other favorites? Will the American, the 2010 World Champion, Kayla HARRISON, and the Brazilian, Mayra AGUIAR, allow the French to do so? Many questions that still need an answer.
Women’s 78 kg
In this category, the numbers one and two in the World Ranking List (TACHIMOTO Megumi and QIN Qian) made the trip to Paris and in the absence of TONG Wen (CHN), the title seems to be promised to one of these two competitors. It will however depend on the desire of winning of many other fighters such as KIM Na-Young (KOR) or IVASCHENKO Elena (RUS), if the surprise does not come from other outsiders … To be continued.
This is unavoidable! Once again in Paris, all eyes will be focussed on Rishod SOBIROV (UZB), world number one and World Champion. Even if he was defeated in the final of the Masters, last January in Almaty, he will do his best to get a new title in the French capital. His direct competitor will be the Ukrainian, Georgii ZANTARAIA, but not before the final at the end of the first day of competition. With 50 engaged competitors, the competition looks tough and podium places will be difficult to reach.
The top seeded athlete of the category is the Mongol, KHASHBAATAR Tsagaanbatar, who currently points third in the world ranking list. In the semifinals, if the hierarchy is respected, he could find on his way, CHO Jun-Ho (KOR), while the ‘trublion’ Loïc KORVAL (FRA – World number 21 and a bronze medal at the World Championships in Tokyo in 2010) will attempt to overthrow the established hierarchy.
In the lower part of the draw, Leandro CUNHA (BRA), who already is the owner of two world silver medals, could also reach the semifinals. The French public will carefully follow the tournament of David LAROSE, who obtained a beautiful bronze medal during the 2010 edition of the tournament.
The category, which counts 58 competitors, is very open, as it is necessary to go back to the 8th place in the WRL to find the top seeded athlete of the tournament, the Uzbek, Navruz JURAKOBILOV. In the second part of the draw, Ugo LEGRAND (FRA), who is the ‘chouchou’ of the public, after his fantastic bronze medal at the World Championships last August, will try again to get rid of all his opponents.
Once again, that will be a tough journey for him to be able to approach the podium and to step on it. The Olympic silver medallist, Benjamin DARBELET (FRA), who is still chasing a second wind in his career, could benefit from the absence of the leaders in the category.
If the category is set to be the largest of the tournament (62 competitors), the bests in the world did not come to Paris. Nevertheless, the level is very high, since among the four best seeded fighters, the Olympic Champion Ole Bischof (GER) is present and on his way to the final, he could meet the Moldovan, Sergiu TOMA, whose spectacular judo always impresses. In the top of the draw, the French, Alain SCHMITT, and the other German, Sven MARESCH (seeded 1) have much to do to confirm their seeded positions here in Paris. Euan BURTON (GBR) who has already experienced the joy of a Grand Slam victory (Tokyo) could be a major outsider for the supreme title.
In the absence of the ogre of the category, the Greek Ilias ILIADIS, the Parisian public will follow the two seeded Brazilians, Tiago CAMILO and Hugo PESSANHA. In the bottom of the draw, the surprise could come from Asley GONZALES, who was one of the fighters who recently defeated ILIADIS; this was in Tokyo last December.
In a very tactical fight and led ably, he had managed to get rid of the Greek pincer. Dilshod CHORIEV (UZB), Kirill DENISOV (RUS) or Marcus NYMAN (SWE) could also dream of a medal in the absence of favorites.
Henk GROL (NED) has a draw that seems to be made for him at least up to the semifinals, even though his first round against the Cameroonian, MOUSSIMA EWANE, does not look like a walkover. In the second quarter of the draw, Ramadan DARWISH (EGY) is a safe bet, while veteran, Ariel ZEEVI (ISR) could once again shake up the hierarchy.
In the second part of the draw, HWANG Hee-Tae (KOR) and Elco VAN DER GEEST (BEL) act as favorites, although this is not the taste of Luciano CORREA (BRA) and Thierry FABRE (FRA) who wants to please his public.
Men’s +100 kg
The German, Andreas TOLZER, announced that he has the solution to beat the ogre of the heavy weight category, the five-time world champion Teddy Riner. However this is not in Paris that we will see his solution as the German giant did not come. However, the French will be present on the tatami, this Sunday, to defend the title he won last year against the Japanese Daiki KAMIKAWA. On his way to the gold, RINER will find Barna BOR (HUN – 6th World) and the Open World Champion, the Uzbek Abdullo TANGRIEV.
It the lowest part of the draw, the Koreen KIM Sung-Min is the favorite, while Rafael SILVA (BRA), winner of the recent Masters in Almaty, wants again to have a taste of gold. No doubt that the atmosphere will be warm on Sunday, when the judo gladiators will enter the Bercy arena.