In the second men's category of the day there was already a second chance for a gold medal for the host country, after the -90kg double. This chance had a name, Ilia Sulamanidze, a name that we are talking about more and more in the judo world.
Final, Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO) vs Gonchigsuren Batkhuyag (MGL)

Looking at his record, we can note interesting information, since Sulamanidze has already been an Olympic medallist. It’s true but it was during the Youth Olympic Games in 2018 in Buenos Aires. He was a cadet and was already showing signs of being a champion. We then see that he was world champion in 2021 but it was in the juniors.

Final, Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO) vs Gonchigsuren Batkhuyag (MGL)

In Tashkent, among seniors, last year, he failed at the foot of the podium, in 5th place. Finally, we see that in December 2022, he won the title at the World Judo Masters and that was among seniors. Since then, Sulamanidze also won the Portugal Grand Prix at the start of the season.

Gold medallist, Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO)

There should be no doubt that his transition to the seniors is now absorbed and that tournament after tournament he shows that he is becoming the strongman of the category. He has a good role model to follow, in the shape of Varlam Liparteliani, winner in the same category in Tashkent three weeks ago, but the latter did not compete in Tbilisi. Utimately Sulamanidze didn't seem to need a role model today. Powerful, precise and tremendously efficient, he qualified for the final with flying colours.

For his last fight, he was opposed by Gonchigsuren Batkhuyag (MGL) who surprised the Canadian Shady Elnahas in the semi-final. Frankly speaking, nothing seemed to want to stop Ilia Sulamanidze today, but before brandishing the gold medal, it was still necessary to win it, so everything had to be done against Batkhuyag.

With what Sulamanidze had shown during the first rounds and with the support of the crowd, nothing seemed capable of stopping him winning gold number two for Georgia. The start of the final seemed to confirm that, as Sulamanidze scored a first waza-ari with an o-uchi-gari. The ippon was close but Batkhuyag landed in a disjointed way; first the lower part of the back and then the upper part. Then the physiognomy of the contest changed. It was Batkhuyag's turn to put incredible pressure on his opponent, being close to scoring as well. The last seconds were tensed and stressful for the public and of course even more for the athletes but in the end, as it was foreseen, Sulamanidze kept his waza-ari alive to win the second gold of the day for Georgia. For sure, we have to keep this name in mind; Sulamanidze will again warrant his name being mentioned in the years to come.

Bronze medal contest, Nurlykhan Sharkhan (KAZ) vs Shady Elnahas (CAN)

Nurlykhan Sharkhan (KAZ) and Shady Elnahas (CAN) battled for the first bronze medal. With a solid performance, Shady Elnahas won the bronze, after his opponent was penalised three times.

Bronze medal contest, Leonardo Gongalves (BRA) vs Rafael Buzacarini (BRA)

Brazil secured a medal no matter what happened next as Leonardo Goncalves (BRA) and Rafael Buzacarini (BRA) faced each other in the second match for a bronze medal. Buzacarini has been on the circuit already for several years, having participated in the last two editions of the Olympic Games, while Goncalves is trying to push him out to take the spot. Well, today the 'old' Buzacarini won with a superb morose-seoi-nage in golden score.

Medal, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Armen BAGDASAROV, Head Referee Director of the International Judo Federation and Mr Tengizi KHUBULURI, Double World Champion and Silver Olympic Medallist

More images of the Tbilisi Grand Slam 2023 - CLICK HERE

See also