At the start of the day, we could reasonably expect a final between Temur Rakhimov (TJK), world number two and finalist of the last Dushanbe Grand Slam last week, only defeated by the great Teddy Riner (FRA), and the one that Japan has been preparing for years to become the reference among heavyweight, Tatsuru Saito (JPN). Let's say it right away, the predictions were correct.

Before we get to the final itself, let's take a closer look at what allowed both men to reach the final. For Rakhimov it all started with a bye, followed by a tactical victory against the local Galymzhan Krikbay (KAZ). The Tajik judoka continued with another victory against Irakli Demetrashvili (GEO), this time on ippon.

In the semi-final, he faced one of the judoka who we see gaining strength with each of his outings, the Turkish Ibrahim Tataroglu, who gains experience with each of his victories or defeats. The path to forming a great champion is long and strewn with pitfalls, but Tataroglu is progressing steadily and one day it could pay off. It wasn't enough today though. Rakhimov countered a poorly prepared attack from Tataroglu for a first waza-ari, immediately followed by an immobilisation for ippon.

In the other part of the draw, Saito who also had a bye to start with, left no chance to the other Turkish athlete in the category, Munir Ertug, and stopped him with a first ippon. In the next round, Saito was content, so to speak, with a waza-ari on a powerful uchi-mata to take out Bislan Katamardov (AIN).

In the semi-final, the Japanese scored twice against Jur Spijkers (NED), who previously had the European champion and winner of the 2023 World Judo Masters, Martti Puumalainen (FIN), on his hunt.

The time for the final had therefore arrived. Rakhimov was never really in the position to threaten the stability of Saito, who controlled the kumi-kata and the main attacks. Rakhimov was penalised twice and as golden score was fast approaching, Saito produced his effort to score a waza-ari with an o-uchi-gari. With less than 15 second to go it was mission impossible for Rakhimov to come back. The gold medal was for Saito and Japan, marking a second victory for Japan on the third day, putting the country at the top of the nations’ list at the very last moment.

The first contest for a bronze medal saw Yevheniy Balyevskyy (UKR) and Jur Spijkers (NED) battle it out for a place on the podium. In good form, Spijkers took the lead with an o-soto-gari for waza-ari, which he followed on the floor with an immobilisation for ippon. Fifth at the recent European championships, the Dutch judoka climbs the ladder to reach his second grand slam podium of the season after his bronze medal in Baku in February.

There remained a single bronze medal to be awarded. It was at the end of the contest between Bislan Katamardov (AIN) and Ibrahim Tataroglu (TUR) that we knew the name of the lucky winner. The Turkish competitor was focussed and ready for a good performance. A first uchi-mata for waza-ari gave him a strong lead, which he transformed into victory after pinning his opponent for ippon.

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Dr Askhat Zhitkeyev, Referee Director of the Judo Union of Asia, General Secretary of the Kazakhstan Judo Federation, and Olympic silver medallist, and Mr Serikbol Urazalin, Vice President of the Kazakhstan Judo Federation.

Final (+100 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (+100 kg)

See also