Jeju, on the South Korean island of the same name, is a booming tourist destination which has attracted the stars of judo for the final World Judo Tour event of the year. The two-day event is part of year-ending Asian leg of the Tour and follows Grand Prix in Qingdao and Abu Dhabi and last week’s Tokyo Grand Slam.
Today (Dec 4th, 2013), the delegations assembled at Jeju Grand Hotel to learn for the fate of their athletes as 186 judoka will compete from 30 nations. 101 men will be in action while 81 women will take to the tatami.
Mr. Marius VIZER, IJF President, welcomed the delegates to Jeju for the final event of the year which has been signed as a new event from 2013 – 2016.
“Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, it’s a pleasure for me to attend the first Grand Prix in South Korea and the last event of the year.
“After achieving together a lot of good results in the judo world we made some changes which were not easy for you all to adapt to but most steps were all welcomed by media, spectators, IOC and our sport was upgraded to third category in Olympic family. This means more recognition, more revenue after the Rio 2016 Olympics and more prestige for our sport and especially for you and your athletes.
“You have to know and understand that our goals have the athletes, coaches and referees at the centre – this will allow us to have much better synergy between coaches and referees and to ensure we collaborate, develop and have harmony between everyone.
“For the future we will of course do our best. In January we will have new seminars on each continent where we will relay the rules together with you, your coaches and referees for benefit and success of judo. You are not only judo coaches but educators for a better society – I want to ask you to pay more and more attention to the educational side of of sport as your athletes are not only judoka on the tatami but also in venue, life and society.
“This message is special for Judo Federation of the United States as we will not tolerate negative athletes and behaviour. Starting next year we will proceed more strictly on the negative behaviour of athletes.
“I wish you a successful tournament and congratulate the Korean Judo Association for making the step up to hosting a Grand Prix. Mr. KIM, the former Korean Judo Association President, did a great job in developing judo as a sport in the country and in Asia. He has now become the Korean Olympic President and that is a very important position in this country. I wish him a lot of success for the next winter Olympics and as the last tournament of the year I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a good New Year.”
Mr. WONBAE Moon, President of Jeju Judo Association, said: “Good afternoon, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Jeju, I hope you all have a good stay in this beautiful island. Good luck in the competition and thank you for participating.”
Top seed JEONG Bo Kyeong (KOR) will aim to set hosts Korea off to a medal-winning opening day on Thursday. The 22-year-old is at her explosive best on her home continent but made significant inroads on the World Judo Tour this year when she captured silver at the Dusseldorf Grand Prix. Fellow seed Maryna CHERNIAK (UKR) has delivered some positive results for her country this year with bronze at the FISU Unviersiade and the same colour medal at the Almaty Grand Prix. CHERNIAK comes into the event after finishing a respectable seventh at the Tokyo Grand Slam. Qingdao Grand Prix bronze medallist Kay KRAUS (GER) will expect to be in the medal picture along with Japanese veteran YAMAGISHI Emi (JPN).
Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist Andreea CHITU (ROU) is hoping to sign off 2013 in style with gold at the final event of the year. The former World Championships bronze medallist will need to be at the peak of her powers to see off judoka such as fellow seed and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix silver medallist Laura GOMEZ (ESP). American hotshot Angelica DELGADO (USA) finished in seventh place at the Tokyo Grand Slam and will have the opportunity to build on that effort with another encouraging showing in Jeju. Former Asian Championships silver medallist UNKHBAATAR Bundmaa (MGL) will fly the flag for the ever-present Mongolian team.
Olympic silver medallist Corina CAPRIORIU (ROU) has been a constant medal threat during the Asian leg of the World Judo Tour. The World Judo Masters bronze medallist started her run with gold in Qingdao, silver in Abu Dhabi and a seventh place in Tokyo. Apia Oceania Open winner Stefanie TREMBLAY (CAN) is one of the four seeded judoka and embarks on her latest bid for a Grand Prix medal with a best previous performance of a fifth place in Rijeka this year. Three-time Asian Championships silver medallist KIM Jan-Di (KOR) will be difficult to stop on home soil while Miami Grand Prix bronze medallist Jovana ROGIC (SRB) and Japanese starlet Christa DEGUCHI (JPN) will both target a place on the podium.
Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist JOUNG Da-Woon (KOR) is the name to beat in the -63kg category. JOUNG, who finished fifth at the London 2012 Olympics, has made her mark this year with a bronze medal at the invite-only World Judo Masters reinforcing her credentials. Isabel PUCHE (ESP) has always produced her best results on her home continent but, as one of the seeds, will be intent on winning an invaluable medal to close her year. BALDORJ Mungunchimeg (MGL) finished fifth at the Qingdao Grand Prix and could improve on that this week while Anna BERNHOLM (SWE) has the ability to spring a few surprises on the opening day.
World Championships bronze medallist KIM Seongyeon (KOR) has won admirers this year for her unexpected performances on the top stage. The 23-year-old upstaged some of the leading names to capture bronze in Rio and was at the same level in Tokyo a week ago where she also won a bronze medal. Prague European Open winner Maria BERNABEU (ESP) will have four Korean judoka to contend with in the -70kg category including FISU Universiade HWANG Ye-Sul (KOR). Sally CONWAY (GBR) is part of a four-strong British team who will all have medal aspirations after winning a host of World Tour medals between them in 2013. Teak-tough Brit CONWAY finished seventh last week in Tokyo.
Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist JEONG Gyeong-Mi (KOR) will be one of the leading stars the Korean public will be rooting for on Friday. The Asian Championships winner and Beijing bronze medallist could come up against fellow seed WANG Szu-Chu (TPE) who impressed as she won bronze at the Qingdao Grand Prix in November. Two-time Abu Dhabi Grand Prix silver medallist Natalie POWELL (GBR) will be in action along with Victoriia TURKS (UKR) who is due a medal after finishing seventh at both the World Judo Masters and Moscow Grand Slam.
Nine judoka will contest the heavyweight women’s category including four Korean athletes. World Championships bronze medallist LEE Jung Eun (KOR) is the top seed and will expect to dominate the category in front of her compatriots. Tashkent Grand Prix silver medallist ODKHUU Javzmaa (MGL) is also seeded while Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist KIM Eunkyeong (KOR) will hope to outperform her teammates and international rivals such as Carolin WEISS (GER) who is the only European judoka in the field.
The lightest men’s category is one of the busiest of the competition with 17 judoka set to compete which is the joint highest with the -81kg field. World Championships silver medallist Amartuvshin DASHDAVAA (MGL) will be the favourite and, after finishing fifth in Tokyo, will have extra motivation to secure a place on the medal podium. Taipei Asian Open winner TSAI Ming Yen (TPE) is a name to watch out for as he has a realistic chance of winning his first World Judo Tour medal at the tender age of 17. World Championships bronze medallist KIM Won Jin (KOR), who took silver in Tokyo, will take to the tatami along with Miami Grand Prix bronze medallist Ashley MCKENZIE (GBR).
Rijeka Grand Prix bronze medallist Colin OATES (GBR) is the top seed in the -66kg category where former Junior Asian Championships silver medallist DOVDON Altansukh (MGL) and World Championships bronze medallist Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) will be among his potential opponents. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix bronze medallist Sugoi URIARTE (ESP) has the ability to shine in Jeju and inflict some satisfying victories on his rivals to conclude the 2013 campaign.
Former world champion and Athens Olympic bronze medallist KHASHBAATAR Tsagaanbaatar (MGL) is the leading man in the -73kg category. The veteran Mongolian will battle to oust Glasgow European Open bronze medallist Egor RYBIN (RUS) and teammate GANBAATAR Odbayar (MGL) who finished fifth at both the Tashkent and Almaty Grand Prix this year. Former Qingdao Grand Prix bronze medallist Serhiy DREBOT (UKR) could also have a significant say in the destination of the four -73kg medals.
London 2012 Olympic champion KIM Jae-Bum (KOR), one of the faces of judo in South Korea, returns to action for his country’s high-profile showcase. KIM has been working as a coach for the national team this year but could not resist stepping onto the tatami in his homeland as the Olympic champion. Asian Championships winner HONG Suk Woong (KOR) is the top seed and will hope the Korean crowd can inspire him to success. San Salvador Pan American Open runner-up Jonathan FERNANDEZ (USA) will be among the contenders along with fellow seed Mark BREWER (NZL) who took silver at the Apia Ocenia Open in November.
Former Olympic champion Ilias ILIADIS (GRE) returns to -90kg duty after testing himself at -100kg in Tokyo where he lost out in the preliminary stage to eventual winner Lukas KRPALEK (CZE). World Championships bronze medallist ILIADIS will compete alongside fellow European talents Joakim DVARBY (SWE) and Alexander GRIGOREV (RUS) who will hope to go toe-to-toe with the returning Greek great. Hosts Korea will pin their hopes on youngster GWAK Dong Han (KOR) who took silver in Jeju last year when the event had World Cup status.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix silver medallist Martin PACEK (SWE) is the top seed in the -100kg category which is replete with world-class judoka. Tallinn European Open gold medallist Artem BLOSHENKO (UKR) and Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist NAIDAN Tuvshinbayar (MGL) will be prominent while Canada’s new prodigy Kyle REYES (CAN) will offer another glimpse of his unforgettable talent after earning silver in Japan.
The first Judo Grand Prix in Jeju will conclude on Friday with the men’s heavyweight category. Tokyo Grand Slam winner KIM Sung-Min (KOR) looked full of confidence when he was walking around the official hotel on Wednesday and will be counting down the hours to his first contest. Former Junior World Championships silver medallist Stanislav BONDARENKO (UKR) could be the surprise performer if he can emerge unscathed against high calibre judoka such as Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix winner KIM Soo-Whan (KOR) and Junior World Championships silver medallist ULZIIBAYAR Duurenbayar (MGL).
IJF Media & Communications Department
Mark Pickering, IJF Media Manager
Nicolas Messner, IJF Media Director
Photos IJF Media by G. Sabau