The Judo Grand Prix, Düsseldorf 2012 (18/19 February 2012) breaks all records: there are 11 Olympic, 21 World and 40 European champions among the 664 entries from 95 nations. The competing judoka have amassed altogether 34 Olympic and 166 World championship medals as well as 85 European titles. “The Judo Grand Prix in Dusseldorf sets new standards this year”, says DJB President Peter Frese. “The sporting quality is unique and stands out”.
37 fighters are present for this first Grand Prix of the year. The category looks very interesting. Despite the absence of the three best players in the world, very good athletes came to Düsseldorf. Among them are: Charline VAN SNICK (BEL – WRL 4), winner of the last Grand Prix of the 2011 season in Qingdao, Alina DUMITRU (ROU – WRL 5), the defending Olympic champion, who looks very fit a few months prior to the defense of her title in London next July, Paula PARETO (ARG – WRL 6), winner of the Judo World Cup in Apia, last November, Eva CSERNOVICZKI (HUN – WRL 7), who failed at the foot the podium last week in Paris and finally Shugen WU (HUN – WRL 8).
Bundmaa MUNKHBAATAR (MGL – WRL 3) will act as the top seeded athlete in the absence of the two Japanese, who share the top two places in the world ranking list. In her wake, there will be Soraya HADDAD (ALG – WRL 4), winner of the Grand Prix of Amsterdam in 2011, Erika MIRANDA (BRA – WRL 6), who won in Rio last year, Ana CARRASCOSA (ESP – WRL 7) who, at the age of 32, is still competitive, since whe just won the bronze at the Paris Grand Slam, Natalia KUZIUTINA (RUS – WRL 9) and Yanet BERMOY ACOSTA (CUB – WRL 11), the World Champion of 2005, in Cairo.
The world number one, Kaori MATSUMOTO (JPN – WRL 1), will be present this weekend on the German tatami, to insure an Olympic qualification that already seems acquired, although she is closely followed by her compatriot, Aiko SATO, silver medalist in Paris less than two weeks ago. But the speedy winner of the last Grand Slam in Paris, Telma MONTEIRO (POR – WRL 3), does not agree with that, as well as Rafaela SILVA (BRA – WRL 4), Corina CAPRIORIU (ROU – WRL 5), Sabrina FILZMOSER (OTH – WRL 6) who is used to collect medals, January-Sun KIM (KOR – WRL 8) and the reigning Olympic champion, Giulia QUINTAVALLE (ITA – WRL 9).
For a very long time, ranked just behind the reigning world champion, Gévrise EMANE (FRA – WRL 2), Yoshie UENO (JPN – WRL 1) has taken a big lead in the world ranking. But the two leaders will not be in Düsseldorf this weekend. This could benefit to Urska ZOLNIR (SLO – WRL 3), who gets closer to the bests. Other contenders will be Miki TANAKA (JPN – WRL 5), Alice SCHLESSINGER (ISR – 8), who seems to have taken the advantage over her compatriot, Yarden GERBI, for the Olympic qualification, Lili XU (CHN – WRL 6) and Claudia MALZAHN (GER – WRL 9) who will fight at home. It will also be interesting to follow the tournament of Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA – 11), who is back from suspension because she was not able to respect the weight on the occasion of the Grand Slam in Paris.
In a category where the hierarchy is well established, the top seeded athlete will be Yoriko KUNIHARA (JPN – WRL 4). Indeed, both Lucie DECOSSE (FRA – WRL 1), as well as Edith BOSCH (NED (WRL 2) and Haruka TACHIMOTO (JPN, WRL 3) have chosen not to come to the Grand Prix this weekend and are in a recovery phase for the London Games. The outsiders will Ye-Sul HWANG (KOR – WRL 5), bronze medalist in Paris in early February, Rasa SRAKA (SLO – WRL 8), winner of the World Cup in Mongolia in 2011 , and Cecilia BLANCO (ESP – WRL 9), finalist in Tokyo last December.
The women’s-78kg category is always eagerly awaited and very spicy. If the level of the last Grand Slam in Paris will not be reached – the top 5 athletes in the world were present and the four bests were standing on the podium – the level will be particularly high again in Düsseldorf. Kayla HARRISON (United States – WRL 4), World Champion in 2010, Abigel JOO (HUN – WRL 5), recent bronze medalist of the World Cup in Budapest, Xiuli YANG (CHN – WRL 6), the reigning Olympic champions and Heide WOLLERT (GER – 8), who enjoys ‘her German garden’, for sure will be the main characters of the Düsseldorf festival.
Women’s +78 kg
The very bests in the world did not come to Dusseldorf in this weight category. Nevertheless, the tournament promises to be of a high level with the presence of Lucija POLAVDER (SLO – WRL 5), Elena IVASCHCHENKO (RUS – WRL 6), Na-Young KIM (KOR – 7) and Idalys ORTIZ (CUB – WRL 8) while French audiences will follow the combats between Anne-Sophie MONDIERE (FRA – WRL 12) and Ketty MATHE (FRA – WRL 23). The two combatants could meet in the semi-final if they are able to do the cleaning in their respective quarter of the draw.
51 judoka will take part in the -60kg men’s category, the top seeded athlete being the Japanese, Hirofumi YAMAMOTO (JPN – WRL 3), winner of the Tokyo Grand Slam last December. To get a victory, he will have to count on Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO – WRL 6), who obtained a beautiful bronze medal in Paris in early February, CHOI Gwang-Hyeon (KOR WRL 8) or Sofiane MILOUS (FRA – WRL 9). Despite these seeded athletes, the tournament promises to be very open and it remains difficult to predict the final winner of the tournament.
In this category, there are 63 fighters. The gold medallist will probably have to win up to 7 contests to step on the podium. Seeded No. 1 is the Mongol, Tsagaanbaatar KHASHBAATAR (MGL – WRL 2), who won’t have to compete the first round, as well as the other seeded players such as Alim GADANOV (RUS – WRL 4), Rok DRAKSIC (SLO – 7) or Jumpei MORISHITA (JPN – WRL 6). The Japanese is in the same quarter of the draw than David LAROSE (FRA – WRL 10), the recent winner of the Judo Grand Slam, Paris 2012, less than two weeks ago.
This will be the largest category, as 66 fighters are engaged and, despite the absence of world number one, Riki NAKAYA (JPN – WRL 1), the level looks particularly strong this year. Thus, the Masters champion in Almaty last January, Ki-Chun WANG (KOR – WRL 2), will be present, just as the vice-world champion, Dex ELMONT (NED – WRL 3), the recent winner of the Paris Grand Slam, Nyam-Ochir SAINJARGAL (MGL – WRL 6), Dirk VAN TICHELT (BEL – WRL 7), and the bronze medalist of the World Championships, Ugo LEGRAND (FRA – WRL 11), while the Olympic silver medalist, Benjamin DARBELET (FRA – WRL 12) is still trying to return to the forefront.
With one more fighter, it would have been the largest category of the weekend. Elnur MAMMADLI (AZE – WRL 3), -73kg Olympic Champion in Beijing in 2008, and Ole BISCHOF (GER – WRL 4), the -81kg Olympic Champion, will be participating, the German remaining on a stunning victory in Paris, last week. Sven MARESCH (GER – WRL 9), Takahiro NAKAI (JPN – WRL 5), Alain SCHMITT (FRA – WRL 11), Guillaume ELMONT (NED – WRL 13), Euan BURTON (GBR – WRL 12), Srdjan MRVALJEVIC (MNE – WRL 14), and Francesco HEATHER (ITA – WRL 18) will also be part of the contenders for the overall victory.
ONO Takashi (JPN – WRL 4), the former world number one in the men’s -90kg category, stands in a risky position. Despite being classified 4 in the world ranking list, a position synonymous with Olympic qualification, he now has two fellow judoka ranked higher than him. In the absence of world number one, Olympic Champion and World Champion, Ilias ILIADIS (GRE – WRL 1), Asley GONZALES (CUB – WRL 6), Elkhan MAMMADOV (AZE – WRL 11) and Hugo PESSANHA (BRA – WRL 7), are the other seeded athletes in this tournament.
World number one, Maxim RAKOV (KAZ – WRL 1), will defend his ranking position, this weekend in Germany. But for that, he must defeat Naidan TUVSHINBAYAR (MGL – WRL 5), recent winner of the Paris Tournament, who seems particularly in good shape and who, in a few months, will replay his Olympic title obtained in Beijing four years ago. Ramadan DARWISH (EGY – WRL 10) and Hee-Tae HWANG (KOR – WRL 7) will be the main outsiders.
Men’s +100 kg
He announced that he has found the solution to dethrone the king RINER, but Andreas TOELZER (GER – WRL 2), before that, will have to strengthen his position as the world number two, in ‘his tournament’, here in Düsseldorf. To dispute his title, obtained in the same venue, exactly one year ago, he will have to win against Kim Sung-Min (KOR – WRL 5), bronze medalist last week in Austria, Oberwart, or against Oscar BRAYSON (CUB – WRL 9) or the eternal Barna BOR (HUN – WRL 7).
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