THE ROAD TO RIO 2016 IS OPEN Gold for Belgium, China, Brasil and Japan (2)

Dusseldorf, Feb 21, 2015: Today was the first day of competition of the first event of the 2015 edition of the World Judo Tour, which this year starts in Düsseldorf, Germany and will continue over the next two days. Five weight categories were in action in the Mitsubishi Electric Halle: women’s -48kg, -52kg, -57kg and men’s -60kg and -66kg.

Vladimir Barta, the IJF Head Sports Director, said: “We can feel that everybody is already on their way to Rio 2016. The pressure is getting stronger and the level of every judoka is increasing. The federations are all taking the challenge very seriously. We had several surprises today like the world number one and world champion, GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL), being defeated by a young Spanish athlete, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP), Junior World Champion though. We can also enjoy a very good German organization.”

During the opening ceremony, Barta declared: “I want to really thank, Mr. Peter Frese, the German Judo Federation President, for the outstanding work that he did with his competent team to organize this very first event of the 2015 season and I declare the Düsseldorf Grand Prix 2015 in Germany, open.”

Peter Frese, the DJB President, said: “Almost 600 athletes came to Düsseldorf on their way to Rio 2016. Thanks to the support of our partners and sponsors and to the great cooperation with the IJF team, we are able to deliver a Grand Prix, which is already a success even if we still have two days of competition. I have the hope that in the upcoming years we will continue to welcome you all here, especially when I see so many champions showing their best judo.”

Frese then added: “Everything went very well today. It was an excellent kick-off of the event. My staff and the IJF staff are very professional and we are definitely on the good track to Rio.”

WOMEN: -48kg: Van Snick Outclasses her Opponents
One could expect a final between the world champion of Rio de Janeiro in 2013, Munkhbat Urantsetseg (MGL), and the current Olympic champion, Brazilian Sarah Menezes. If the first smoothly reached the final, it was not the same for Menezes, who lost in her first fight against Shira RISHONY (ISR). The 24-year-old and still ranked world number two Brazilian is struggling to get back to her best since her title brilliantly won in London 2012.

In the final, Munkhbat was opposed to Charline Van SNICK (BEL) who made her way to the podium by defeating, in the second round, the reigning world champion, Japan’s Kondo Ami. Both athletes perfectly cancelled each other out for more than three minutes, but Munkhbat was less active than Van SNICK and was penalized with a single shido which offered the victory to the Belgian.

The first bronze medal fight opposed the number 13 and 14 in the World Ranking List, respectively Monica UNGUREANU (ROU), winner of the Qingdao Grand Prix last year, and the bronze medallist of the last 2014 IJF event (Tokyo Grand Slam) JEONG Bo Kyeong (KOR). After the first minute, UNGUREANU was leading by a penalty, but this advantage was then reduced to nothing when she was also penalized. A few seconds later Kyeong scored with a shoulder movement combined with a leg attack for yuko, taking a more significant advantage. The Romanian, who was penalized a third time, was never able to put her opponent in danger and finally the first bronze medal of the competition went to JEONG Bo Kyeong.

Regularly present on the international podiums, Valentina Moscatt (ITA – Grand Slam Tyumen 2014: 3. place, Grand Prix Budapest 2014: 2. place, Grand Prix Astana 2014: 3. place) was again present in the final block of this first day of competition as she faced the two-time world champion, Asami Haruna (JPN – Tokyo 2010 and Paris 2011). After one minute and a half, Valentina MOSCATT was penalized with a first shido for a negative fighting attitude and again a few seconds later for false attack. The two penalties were enough for ASAMI to step on the podium.

-52kg: A New Star Shines on the Chinese Flag
The top favourites had a little trouble today in the -52kg category, since it was necessary to go back to the 6th and 8th seeded athletes to find the two finalists: MA Yingnan (CHN) and MISATO Nakamura (JPN). Following the retirement of its golden generation from Beijing in 2008, China is seeking new flagship judoka to continue the development of judo in the country. That may be the case with MA Yingnan who ended at the bottom of the podium on the occasion of the last world championships in Chelyabinsk, but won the Ulaanbaatar and Qingdao Grand Prix in 2014. Nakamura reaches again her best level after her title at the 2011 world championships in Paris, where she topped the podium.

MA Yingnan totally controlled the final, blocking all her opponent’s attacks and being active enough to avoid being penalized. NAKAMURA was penalized once during the regular time, but this small penalty was enough for MA to win the first Grand Prix of the season, securing some precious points for the Olympic qualification.

The top seeded athlete of the competition, Andreea Chitu (ROU), still managed to reach again the final block of a major international competition. For the bronze medal she was opposed to Skrypnik Darya (BLR) who currently only had a 5th place at an IJF event on her record. Just after 1 minute and a half was necessary to Chitu to score a superb hip makikomi technique for a clear ippon.

The second bronze medal was disputed between Mareen KRAEH who had the opportunity to offer a first medal to the host country and the Israeli, Gili Cohen, winner of the first edition of the Tbilisi Grand Pris last year. When the two athletes entered the field of play, the noise level clearly increased in the stadium. After 30 seconds, when KRAEH scored a first yuko with a o-soto-gari, the public exploded for the first time. This explosion was followed by a second one a few seconds later when the German again scored a yuko with a sasae technique. It was not even the halfway point of the match. A few penalties later, KRAEH could finally celebrate her victory and the first medal for Germany.

-57kg: A Long Day for Silva but a Golden Day
World medallist and European champion Automne Pavia (FRA), undoubtedly came to Düsseldorf to show her supremacy over the -57kg weight category. But this was without counting on the desire to win of LIEN Chen-Ling (TPE) who blocked her way to the final already in the quarterfinals. In the first half of the draw of the French, it is ultimately the gold medallist of the 2013 Tyumen Masters, DORJSUREN Sumiya (MGL), who secured a place on the podium by defeating LIEN. In the second half of the draw, the task was also very complicated for Rafaela Silva (BRA), world champion in 2013 in Rio, who had to fight for nearly four minutes with Laetitia BLOT (FRA) in golden score before she could enjoy seeing the referee announcing ippon after her last effort to throw the French.

It took only a few seconds for Silva to score a first waza-ari against DORJSUREN and almost four more minutes to put an end to her competition day, with a ippon, 14 seconds before the final gong.

Clearly not yet back to her best, Automne Pavia still managed to enter the final block where she was opposed to her compatriot Laetitia Blot for a place on the podium. Clearly bothered by the longer arms of PAVIA and her ample attacks, and despite the high rhythm that she tried to impose, BLOT was incapable of putting PAVIA in danger. The world bronze medallist, controlled the fight and scored a uchi-mata for ippon. But the ippon was changed to waza-ari. Blot then tried to push PAVIA to make mistakes and she almost succeeded as PAVIA was penalized three times for stepping out of the tatami. But this was not enough for BLOT to step on the podium.

In the second bronze final, the bronze medallist at the 2009 World Championships in Rotterdam, KARAKAS Hedvig (HUN) was opposed to LIEN Chen-Ling (TPE), but due to an injury, LIEN could not compete and the medal went to KARAKAS Hedvig.

MEN: -60kg: Lightweight Category Goes to… Japan
The -60kg weight category was also difficult for the favourites as word number 1, GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL), world number 2, Amiran PAPINASHVIL (GEO), world number 4 Orkhan SAFAROV (AZE) and world number 5 TAKATO Naohisa (JPN) were eliminated and therefore not present on the podium at the end of the day.

World number 7 and winner of the 2014 Tokyp Grand Slam, KIM Won Jin (KOR), was the first to enter the final against the other Japanese athlete of the category, SHISHIME Toru, who was not among the top eight favourites of the competition. After three minutes, only penalties were visible on the scoreboard, with two for each fighter. The third penalty given to Kim, secured the victory for SHISHIME.

The first bronze medal fight opposed IBRAYEV, Rustam (KAZ) and PAPINASHVILI, Amiran (GEO). It took less than a minute for IBRAYEV to launch a one arm sumi-gaeshi for a perfect ippon, leaving world number 2 and Moscow Grand Slam winner, PAPINASHVILI, at the bottom of the podium.

Junior world champion Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP) entered his first world judo tour final block for a place on the podium against Phelipe PELIM (BRA). Even if GARRIGOS looked more active and seemed to run nonstop throughout the fight, the first to score was the Brazilian, with a arai-makikomi for yuko. This small advantage was enough to secure the victory, but Francisco GARRIGOS definitely showed that he will be a very strong competitor in the future.

-66kg: Japan Secures the Men’s Light Weight Categories
The top seeded athlete and 2014 Asian Games winner, DAVAADORJ Tumurkhuleg, entered the final, where he was opposed to TAKAICHI Kengo (JPN), ranked 15 in the world and winner of the first edition of the Budapest Grand Prix, last year. In the semi-final, DAVAADORJ defeated the two-time-winner of the Paris Grand Slam, David Larose, who is coming back after a long period away from the tatami due to an injury.

After half of the final, TAKAICHI was leading by a penalty difference, as DAVAADORJ had received two shido penalties. One penalty later, but this time to the Japanese, was not enough for the Mongolian to get the ultimate award and he had to remain on the second step of the podium. —- Photo: IJF Media by Tamas Zahonyi

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