The World Judo Tour has arrived in the sport’s birth place of Japan for the Judo Grand Slam, Tokyo 2013.
After Grand Slam events in Paris, Baku and Moscow, the stars of judo are ready for the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year which will take place at the 10,000 capacity Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in the Sendagaya district of Shibuya, Tokyo. A Judo Grand Slam offers the most world ranking points after an Olympic Games, World Championships and World Judo Masters, with 500 points for gold, 300 points for silver and 200 points for bronze along with a total of $150,000 at stake in prize money.
The Tokyo Grand Slam is the biggest sporting event to take place in the city since it was elected as the host city of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in September. Every judoka has a burning desire to compete and defeat not only the international judoka in Tokyo but also the plethora of world-class Japanese judoka who are expected to win here and in convincing fashion.
Traditionally Japan are untouchable on home soil and will be tipped to repeat their 2012 domination when they won 26 medals including 10 of the 14 gold medals. The hosts are entitled to select four judoka per weight category and with an abundance of riches have easily called on a maximum 56 judoka.
The athletes have been completing their final training sessions at the iconic eight-story Kodokan Judo Institute which was the brainchild of judo founder Jigoro Kano in 1882. The
Kodokan Institute, which translates as an “institution to teach people the way of life,” has over 1,000 tatami and an aura whereby the spirit of judo lives and is preserved with tradition and history all around you. (Click here to view our ‘Inside the Kodokan’ photo album).
The delegations met today for the draw at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, the first official business of the Judo Grand Slam, Tokyo 2013, just 300 metres away from the Kodokan. The delegates learned that 46 countries and 336 athletes will compete over the three days of eagerly-awaited competition.
Mr. UNO Hirom
asa, All Japan Judo Federation General Secretary, made the welcoming address. “On behalf of the All Japan Judo Federation I have the pleasure of welcoming
you all to Tokyo. I wish the athletes a good competition and I hope they show fair play. I hope you all have a pleasant stay in Japan.”
Mr. Jan SNIJDERS, IJF Head Refereeing Director, made the IJF address. “Mr. UNO, ladies and gentlemen, we are here for the last Grand Slam of the year in Tokyo, Japan. On behalf of the IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER I would like to congratulate the All Japan Judo Federation for their work so far and they always deliver a successful event. I wish you all a fantastic competition.”
World champion MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg (MGL) has showed some indifferent form since becoming the first Mongolian woman to win a world judo title in August. The 23-year-old failed to medal at World Judo Tour events in September and October but class is permanent and the world number two returned to the podium with a bronze medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last weekend. World Championships bronze medallist and London 2012 Olympic champion Sarah MENEZES (BRA) has form in Tokyo with two Grand Slam bronze medals and a 2010 world bronze medal to her name. The outcome of the lightest category could be decided by the Brazilian’s performances against Japan’s considerable firepower including former cadet world champion KONDO Ami (JPN). The 18-year-old will be one of Japan’s gifted young prospects intent on starting their long road to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
World number two Erika MIRANDA (BRA) warmed up for the Tokyo Grand Slam by competing on the domestic stage and winning her third consecutive gold medal at the Brazilian Judo Confederations National Team Championships. MIRANDA, 26, finished in fifth-place in Tokyo last year but is a far more experienced and is a complete judoka this time around with the top seeding underlining her title candidacy. World number four Jaana SUNDBERG (FIN) has been one of the great success stories of the World Judo Tour this year since turning 30 in April. SUNDBERG won a career-best Baku Grand Slam gold medal in May and backed that up with a hard-fought fifth-place at the World Judo Masters. The high-flying Finn won the Moscow Grand Slam and finished fifth at the World Championships and will now be aiming for her Grand Slam hat-trick. World number five Andreea CHITU (ROU) won bronze in Abu Dhabi and jumps straight back into action with the appeal of the Tokyo Grand Slam proving irresistible. CHITU started her World Judo Tour campaign this year with bronze at the Paris Grand Slam and will aim to win her first medal in Japan. Age-defying Ilse HEYLEN (BEL) will also be in action along with German standouts Mareen KRAEH (GER) and Romy TARANGUL (GER).
Germany’s outstanding top seed Miryam ROPER (GER) first appeared for her country at the age of 24 and the charismatic judoka has more than made up for lost time this year. Everything the 31-year-old touches turns to gold. World number two ROPER won the Grand Slams in Baku and Moscow and the Grand Prix in Rijeka and Abu Dhabi and all with a beaming smile on her face. There was also a bronze medal at the Miami Grand Prix and most importantly a bronze medal at the World Championships. ROPER won the ‘Best Female Judoka’ award in Abu Dhabi with a gold medal display and, ahead of her final competition of the year, reflected on her recent success and the incentives in Tokyo. “I’ve had a great run so far,” said ROPER. “There is no pressure now. Of course I want to show a good performance as always. I just enjoy fighting. And a medal at the Grand Slam in Tokyo is something special because it is one of the most respected and valued competitions. About the ranking, becoming world number one sounds like a dream, I don’t dare to dream.” Brazil’s first female world judo champion Rafaela SILVA (BRA) has made the trip to Asia and, like ROPER and World Judo Masters winner DORJSUREN Sumiya (MGL), could prise the world number one spot away from the absent Automne PAVIA (FRA) by winning gold in Tokyo. World Championships and Olympic bronze medallist Marti MALLOY (USA) will be tipped to capture a place on the medal podium in one of the deepest categories in the sport.
World number three Anicka VAN EMDEN (NED) will be determined to close the gap on world leader Yarden GERBI (ISR) and world number two Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) in Tokyo. The long-time standard bearers in the -63kg category are absent this weekend and World Championships bronze medallist VAN EMDEN is in good form with a bronze medal to show for her efforts at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a week ago. World Judo Masters winner and world number four ABE Kana (JPN) will fly the flag for Japan along with world number five TANAKA Miki (JPN) while world number eight and European Championships bronze medallist Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) will be one of Europe’s leading judoka.
World champion Yuri ALVEAR (COL) can propel herself to second place in the world ranking list if she wins gold and outperforms her nearest rivals. The London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist currently occupies fourth place and will be keen to improve on that ranking with the Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualification phase just around the corner. World number one and World Championships bronze medallist Kim POLLING (NED) won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a week ago as the latest in a long line of World Judo Tour victories this year. The 22-year-old topped the medal podium at signature events such as the Paris Grand Slam, World Judo Masters and ruled her continent as the European champion. World number two Kelita ZUPANCIC (CAN) won her first Grand Slam gold medal in Baku this year and took silver at the star-laden World Judo Masters. ZUPANCIC is being chased down by world number three Laura VARGAS KOCH (GER) who won a career-best World Championships silver medal in Rio. Fellow world bronze medallist KIM Seongyeon (KOR), World Military Championships winner Maria PORTELA (BRA) and the reigning Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist TACHIMOTO Haruka (JPN) will also be among the leading contenders.
The -78kg category is set for one final major shake-up in 2013 as a host of top names will compete in Tokyo. The complexion of the category could change dramatically with a win over an arch-rival and there are plenty of names to whet the appetite. World number four JEONG Gyeong-Mi (KOR) last graced a medal podium at the Rijeka Grand Prix in September where she won a silver medal and will be aiming for a strong performance in Tokyo ahead of next week’s Jeju Grand Prix in her homeland. The all-star cast also includes world number six Marhinde VERKERK (NED), world number eight Anamari VELENSEK (SLO), world number 10 Luise MALZAHN (GER) and reigning Tokyo Grand Slam gold medallist SATO Ruika (JPN).
World and Olympic champion Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) is the face of the women’s heavyweight category and will be looking to go one better than her 2012 Tokyo Grand Slam silver medal. ORTIZ lost out to three-time World Championships bronze medallist TACHIMOTO Megumi (JPN) last year and they could meet again in the latter stages if both perform to their potential. World number two Maria Suelen ALTHEMAN (BRA) can capture the world number one spot by outperforming her arch-rival ORTIZ who won their World Championships final in Rio. The Brazilian will be joined in action on Sunday by Emilie ANDEOL (FRA) who won bronze at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a week ago and Moscow Grand Slam bronze medallist Jasmin KUELBS (GER).
Japan’s new world champion and golden boy TAKATO Naohisa (JPN) will receive a heroes’ welcome after his accomplishments on the World Judo Tour this year. The 20-year-old, who is the reigning Tokyo Grand Slam gold medallist, has won the Paris Grand Slam, World Judo Masters and ended Japan’s 16-year wait for a lightweight world champion as he won his first senior world title in August. World silver medallist DASHDAVAA Amartuvshin (MGL) is craving a contest against TAKATO after losing out to the new Japanese idol in Rio. Other contenders include Olympic bronze medallist Felipe KITADAI (BRA) who won silver at the Moscow Grand Slam and World Judo Masters silver medallist GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL).
World number one DAVAADORJ Tumurkhuleg (MGL) has world number three David LAROSE (FRA) hunting down his top ranking this weekend. DAVAADORJ took silver at the Qingdao Grand Prix and will relish the challenge of a mouthwatering category which also includes the every-improving world number four Charles CHIBANA (BRA) and world number six TAKAJO Tomofumi (JPN) who took silver at the World Judo Masters in May. World bronze medallist Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) will be joined in action by European Championships runner-up Kamal KHAN-MAGOMEDOV (RUS) and Moscow Grand Slam silver medallist Colin OATES (GBR).
World number two and World Championships bronze medallist Dirk VAN TICHELT (BEL) will become the world number one if he wins at least a silver medal to trade places with the absent SAINJARGAL Nyam-Ochir (MGL). Ahead of the draw VAN TICHELT said: “I’m just happy that I can fight again. After the World Championships, I took a long break. After a month I started again with my physical preparation, a month later I was back on tatami and now I’m doing competing again. I’ve had a very good year and hope to maintain my world ranking.” Mongolia will be represented by world number five KHASHBAATAR Tsagaanbaatar (MGL) who has a Grand Slam gold medal from Paris this year and has won three bronze medals at the Tokyo Grand Slam. World number nine and European champion Rok DRAKSIC (SLO) has been preparing for the competition by training at Yong In University in South Korea with members of their national team such as former World Championships bronze medallist AN Jeong-Hwan. Olympic silver medallist and former world champion NAKAYA Riki (JPN) had to settle for silver in Tokyo last year but knows what it takes to win one of the finest events on the World Judo Tour having claimed gold in 2010.
World number one Avtandili TCHRIKISHVILI (GEO) is set for a major test on Saturday with a world-class field looking to take his scalp in Tokyo. The Georgian, who took silver at the World Championships, is one of 34 judoka competing in the category which is the biggest in the competition. World champion Loic PIETRI (FRA) will be aiming to put on a show for the Japanese crowd who will be rooting for home judoka NAGASHIMA Keita (JPN) and NAKAI Takahiro (JPN). Tashkent Grand Prix winner Travis STEVENS (USA) and Olympic bronze medallist Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) will also be in action.
World champion and Olympic silver medallist Asley GONZALEZ (CUB) is the man to stop in the -90kg category. The 24-year-old took silver here in 2011 and will be set for a medal bid on Sunday. Top seed and World Team Championships gold medallist Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) will see action along with NISHIYAMA Daiki (JPN) who rises to the occasion on home soil having previously won silver at the World Championships and Tokyo Grand Slam in front of a partisan crowd. European bronze medallist Kirill VOPROSOV (RUS) took bronze here in 2011 and has the ability to repeat or improve on that result when he takes to the tatami on the final day of the competition.
Top seed and World Championships bronze medallist Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) has been a model of consistency this year with gold medals at the European Championships and Paris Grand Slam in addition to his result in Rio. Ilias ILIADIS (GRE) will be a new challenger as he steps up from the -90kg category to experience life in the -100kg category. The Greek superstar is difficult to contain in any category as he showed at this event last year when he took silver at the heavier weight. Former Olympic champion NAIDAN Tuvshinbayar (MGL) will compete along with Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Cyrille MARET (FRA) and Junior World Championships winner Kyle REYES (CAN) who lives and trains in Tokyo.
World Championships silver medallist Rafael SILVA (BRA) will be aiming to live up to his billing as the top seed when he graces the tatami on Sunday. The Brazilian powerhouse will be bidding for one more successful outing in 2013 as he aims to be in a strong position for the start of the Olympic qualification phase next year. Japanese hope SHICHINOHE Ryu (JPN) has never won a World Judo Tour event and the Tokyo Grand Slam will always be the best opportunity for him to amend that omission from his record. Roy MEYER (NED) took silver at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a week ago and the 22-year-old is one of the most athletic judoka in the heavyweight category. Junior World Championships bronze medallist Levani MATIASHVILI (GEO) has earned the opportunity to compete on one of the biggest stages in the sport and will look forward to going toe-to-toe with the leading heavyweights such as wily veteran Jean-Sebastien BONVOISIN (FRA).