We like this -81kg category which always reserves its share of surprises and classic fights. We cannot repeat it enough, this is a category where uncertainty often plays the role of master decision-maker.
Final, Yoshito Hojo (JPN) vs Vedat Albayrak Albayrak (TUR)

We love the flamboyance of Joonhwan Lee (KOR), the boundless energy of Frank De Wit (NED), the self-sacrifice of Saeid Mollaei (AZE), the hard work of Attila Ungvari (HUN), the power of Vedat Albayrak (TUR), the explosiveness of Antonio Esposito (ITA), the youth of Alpha Oumar Djalo (FRA), the experience of Sagi Muki (ISR) and so many others. They were all here, as well as some athletes we know less like this Japanese judoka, Yoshito Hojo, who no-one saw coming.

However, Ungvari, Mollaei, Esposito, Lee, all suffered under Japanese law. Only the luckiest still had a chance to get on the podium. Could Veda Albayrak (TUR) be the last survivor? We had to wait until the final to find out.

Gold medallist, Yoshito Hojo (JPN)

Yoshito Hojo is almost unknown on the circuit and it was actually his first appearance in a grand prix. There are a lot of necessary questions raised in such a situation. One was, would Hojo be able to deal with the experience of Albayrak, who is known for being a real powerhouse? We didn’t have to wait that long. After a first part of the final that was kind of an observation, Yoshito Hojo went under the centre of gravity of his opponent and turned him over with a massive ura-nage for ippon, a technique that we would maybe have expected from Veda Albayrak himself. That's a masterful victory for Yoshito Hojo.

Bronze medal contest, Saeid Mollaei (AZE) vs Nurbek Murtozoev (UZB)

Saeid Mollaei (AZE), who has had to treat a few injuries in recent months, had a good day. It was only a slight slackening in the quarter-final that cost him the victory against Hojo, but we feel that little by little his reflexes are returning. This bodes well for the 2018 world champion. For the bronze medal, he was opposed by Nurbek Murtozoev (UZB).

It was very interesting to watch two judoka with similar judo and kumi-kata, trying with every grip to find opportunities. A lot of power was involved and as they were both penalised twice during normal time, the golden score period promised to be crazy. It was and more power was delivered, more lactic acid invaded the arms and legs, and in the end, after a sequence that could have gone either way, it was Saeid Mollaei who produced the effort to throw his opponent and drive him flat on his back; bronze for Mollaei.

Bronze medal contest, Naoto Izawa (JPN) vs Joonhwan Lee (KOR)

The second Japanese judoka in the category, Naoto Izawa (JPN) qualified to win the second bronze medal, against Joonhwan Lee (KOR). Even though the Korean judoka was not as sharp as last year, he is still a great technician. With the season being long until the Games, he will need to be ready on time in July. For today, against Izawa, he showed us again his best skills: waza-ari with seoi-nage and ippon with a ko-uchi-gari coming from afar. Not bad!

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Florin Daniel Lascau, Head Referee Director of the International Judo Federation, and Mr António Lopes Aleixo, Honorary President of the Portuguese Judo Federation

Final (-81 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-81 kg)

See also