The grand prix represents the first stage of the World Judo Tour rocket. Then there are the grand slams, the World Judo Masters and of course the world championships but in judo you can rule the world one day and fall the next. Thus, Harim Lee bowed out to the young Yamato Fukuda (JPN). Aged only 18, Fukuda is making great progress. Not ranked in Tokyo ast the end of 2022 for his first appearence on the World judo Tour, he entered the final to face Francisco Garrigos (ESP) who eliminated the Olympic bronze medallist, Luka Mkheidze (FRA), in the semi-final.
It is important to point out here that Mkheidze was returning to competition in Portugal after months of interruption linked to knee surgery, following his Japanese performance in 2021. For a return, we can say that it is encouraging because throughout the preliminaries the Frenchman was diligent and serious.
In the final, maybe Francisco Garrigos (ESP) was stronger, maybe he was more experienced than his young and so far unknown on the circuit opponent Yamato Fukuda. But after the Japanese competitor was penalised twice for passivity, he really got into the contest and scored a first brilliant waza-ari followed by in immediate and even more brilliant juji-gatame for ippon. We didn't know Yamato Fukuda, but now we do and for sure it's not the last time we will hear of him.
For the first match for a bronze medal, we had to wait for the result of the match between Cédric Revol (FRA) and Giorgi Sardalashvili (GEO) and we had to wait until golden score and a third shido being awarded to Giorgi Sardalashvili, to see Cédric Revol win the bronze medal.
To complete the podium the choice was between Luka Mkheidze and Harim Lee, a good test for both. With very strong ne-waza skills, Mkheidze demonstrated to be the stronger one. He pinned Harim Lee for ippon and won a well deserved and encouraging bronze medal.
We will remember that in this category Mohammad Rashnonezhad, from the International Refugee Team (IRT), organised and supported by the International Judo Federation, won two consecutive matches, against Marcus Auer (AUT) and Yam Wolczak (ISR). This result is very positive and will for sure inspire the other refugee athletes as well as refugees across the globe. Yes, it is possible. Yes, it is a dream to perform at the highest level, but a dream that is coming through.
Final (-60 kg)
Bronze Medal Fights (-60 kg)
Final Results (-60 kg)
More images of the Grand Prix Portugal 2023 - CLICK HERE