This category, full of exciting judoka from several generations, was set to raise the roof of the Bercy. The number one seed, Uzbek Murodjon Yuldoshev remains in a domestic battle against Shakhram Akhadov, also in Paris and also seeded, in the 4th spot. There was the potential for them to meet in the semi-final but it wasn’t to be.

Yuldoshev went out on penalties at the hands of Gabriele Sulli, an Italian with no reference at all on the world circuit. With that win under his belt he could have been forgiven for thinking it was his day but he lost to Batzaya (MGL) in the next round who, in turn, lost to Osmanov (MDA) in the round of 16.

Yuldoshev (UZB) loses out to Sulli (ITA)

Akhadov faired better than his teammate, beating Sherov (TJK), Narkulov (KAZ) and Gabler (GER) to reach the pool final, to fight again Akil Gjakova for a place in the semi-final, which he earned despite it being more than difficult.

Akhadov (UZB) storms past Sherov (TJK)

On the bottom half of the draw the top seeds were Lombardo (ITA), who has seen a resurgence of positive energy in recent months, and Pelivan (MDA). The former was knocked out by largely unknown Japanese competitor Tatsuki Ishihara who then went forward, fight by fight, all the way to the final. In his semi-final, it wasn’t Pelivan he had to pass but Behruzi Khojazoda (TJK), the 2023 Masters silver medallist.

Ishihara (JPN) employs his kansetsu-waza in the semi-final.

The first bronze medal of the category would be awarded to either Gjakova (KOS) or Khojazoda. In normal time there were many opportunities to score but neither succumbed to the other’s intention. The Tajik competitor had some strong transition to the ground but Gjakova had the most dominant grip in tachi-waza. It wasn’t until a minute and a half into golden score that Gjakova finally attacked with a sumi-gaseshi which couldn’t be escaped from. A waza-ari was enough for a Paris Grand Slam bronze.

Gjakova (KOS) made his way to the podium in Paris.

The second bronze medal would either go to Shamshayev (KAZ), the author of the defeat of France’s big hope in the category, Joan-Banjamin Gaba, and Akhadov, who had lost his semi-final earlier in the day to Chikelidze, a young Georgian sitting at 179th place on the World Ranking List. It was the Uzbek athlete who earned the prize simply by out working his opponent. Attack after attack, grip after grip, Akhadov had no intention of losing.

Akhadov (UZB) earned his points.

In the final Ishihara and Chikhelidze brought the opposing styles of Japan and Georgia to the Bercy Accor Arena. Both young and both relatively inexperienced, the unfamiliar surroundings of a grand slam final in the French capital combined with the instant learning and solving required to get through such a match, against someone different from those they train with, was asking a lot.

Japan vs Georgia.

At first Ishihara struggled with the dominant Georgian gripping but that struggle was replaced by technical solutions and Ishihara applied a superb ash-guruma attack, almost ippon. Now ahead, Ishihara grew in confidence and attacked more. An o-uchi-gari came and was reviewed to ensure ‘no score’ was the right call. Tactical gripping from both, with different outcomes desired, went in favour of the Japanese judoka and he left the arena as Paris Grand Slam champion.

Victory for Ishihara (JPN)

Final (-73 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-73 kg)

Medals cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Otabek Umarov, Vice President of the Olympic Council of Asia, and Mr Sacha Houlie, President of the Law Commission of the National Assembly of France.
See also