There are things that we know with great certainty. In judo, it's never 100%, obviously, but with Distria Krasniqi (KOS) we're getting close, as the Kosovan judoka seems to have dominated her category for some time. So, what we know for sure is that her presence in Tbilisi was almost a medal guarantee. To be convinced of this, just look at her track record. Olympic champion in Tokyo in the summer of 2021 at -48kg, she has since returned to her preferred category and except her very first comeback competition, in Baku in 2021, during which she faltered at the foot of the podium, she has invited herself to the podium for a total of no less than nine medals; impressive.
Final, Distria Krasniqi (KOS) vs Diyora Keldiyorova (UZB)

Since her bronze medal at the 2022 World Championships in Tashkent, she has been undefeated, winning without a problem at the World Judo Masters in Jerusalem and then at the beginning of February in Paris. Once again, here in Tbilisi, nothing seemed to stop her in her golden race, as she qualified for the final without really trembling, to face the 2015 world cadet champion Diyora Keldiyorova (UZB).

Experts were wondering what Keldiyorova could honestly do against her illustrious opponent. If we started this article by saying that some things are certain in judo, there is always that part which is totally uncertain and makes judo incredibly exciting. Distria Krasniqi knew that she had to be careful on the floor but the danger came at the start of the final and came from Keldiyorova who scored a first waza-ari with a precise shoulder movement, even if she was totally under Krasniqi's pressure. An accident? A mistake? Not at all, as Keldiyorova produced a second effort for a second waza-ari on the other side immediately. What a final, what a match from Keldiyorova, who upset the Olympic champion and that is not easy to do!

Diyora Keldiyorova (UZB) with her coach Marko Spittka

Without a notable result on the international circuit, except for a bronze medal in Antalya in 2019, Gultaj Mammadaliyeva (AZE) qualified for the first match for a bronze medal, against Yeqing Zhu (CHN), who has arrived for her first participation at a World Judo Tour event. For some time now, we have seen a Chinese team back, a team which is proving to be performing more and more.

Bronze medal contest, Gultaj Mammadaliyeva (AZE) vs Yeqing Zhu (CHN)

Since the Beijing 2008 golden generation, China experienced a slump which currently seems to be re-inflating. Between the two newcomers, the kumi-kata battle raged for a long time before Mammadaliyeva eventually scored a waza-ari with a seoi-nage movement that offered her a first medal at that level and a release of true emotion at the end of the match. Yeqing Zhu will have other opportunities but this time the medal goes to Azerbaijan and to a very promising athlete.

Bronze medal contest, Gefen Primo (ISR) vs Mascha Ballhaus (GER)

Both Gefen Primo (ISR) and Masha Ballhaus (GER) had tough matches and with different fates but in the end they came together to fight for the second bronze medal. Masha Ballhaus, who already showed some beautiful judo during the morning session, was the first to score a waza-ari. The left and right opposition seemed to bother the Israeli competitor more than the German. Having the waza-ari in her pocket, Ballhaus played tactically to win the bronze, which after the gold earned in Tashkent recently, completed a nice series for the German.

Medal, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Michael TAMURA, Sport Director of the International Judo Federation and President of Judo Canada and Mr David KEVKHISHVILIDirector of the IJF New Technologies & High Performance Commission, and Vice President of the Georgian Judo Federation

Final (-52 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-52 kg)

More images of the Tbilisi Grand Slam 2023 - CLICK HERE

See also