The Georgian party was announced and it took place. The host country was obviously waiting for the third day of competition so that their best chances of a podium finish could be expressed. The first judoka that an entire nation was looking forward to was Olympic champion Lasha Bekauri. In his lively and timely style, Bekauri had to pull out all the stops, pushed by the cheers of the public, to get rid of the traps of the first rounds. He knew it, nothing would be easy, especially since he was not the number 1 seed of the tournament. That place was occupied by his compatriot Beka Gviniashvili but the latter was eliminated before the quarter-finals by Theodoros Tselidis (GRE).
Final, Lasha Bekauri (GEO) vs Luka Maisuradze (GEO)

Standing opposite Bekauri in the semi-final, the Greek did not give up and pushed the Olympic champion to his limits. The place in the final was assured though and the Olympic champion entertained the crowd to support him even more.

Gold medallist, Lasha Bekauri (GEO)

It was going to be a daunting task for the thousands of spectators though, because while Bekauri advanced in the tournament, another of his teammates let his judo speak for him in the second half of the draw, promising a tough choice for Georgian fans: who to support finally?

Finallists, Lasha Bekauri (GEO) and Luka Maisuradze (GEO)

Before that final, Luka Maisuradze, third in Paris this season, still had to transcend himself. He started the day scoring points and advanced to the semi-finals. Standing in front of him, a regular at World Judo Tour events, Mihael Zgank (TUR) had every intention of not letting Maisuradze join Bekauri in the final.

The semi-final was epic, tense, undecided until the last moment. It was only after 5:32 of golden score that a final penalty given to Zgank, when the two men had given everything, allowed Maisuradze to reach the final, promising a 100% Georgian last match.

Having the two Georgians on the tatami guaranteed an incredible sound level in the venue, with hundreds of flags being waved. Sometimes having two athletes from the same country can lead also to a close match, as they know each other very well. Well, this was not the case with Bekauri and Maisuradze. In his now perfectly recognised style, Bekauri scored a first waza-ari with an obi-tori-gaeshi that made Maisuradze fly over him. The least we can say is that both competitors put every single bit of energy they had into the battle and it was marvellous to see them competing to the limit. In the end, Bekauri won at home but this final was of high quality because we had two great judoka on the tatami.

Bronze medal contest, Ivan Felipe Silva Morales (CUB) vs Theodoros Tselidis (GRE)

Japan was present in Tbilisi with some athletes. One of them, Goki Tajima (JPN) qualified for the bronze medal match against Mihael Zgank (TUR). Tajima showed during the preliminaries his pure Japanese style. He threw Gviniashvili in the repechage with a massive sode-tsuri-komi-goshi, so Zgank was informed but knowing what awaits you doesn't always prevent something from happening and within a few seconds of the hajime of the bronze medal match, once again Tajima put his hip under the centre of gravity of his opponent and produced a classic kata style throw for a massive ippon. Being in the top 20 in the world, did not prevent Zgank from being thrown like a light weight and so the bronze medal was for Tajima.

Bronze medal contest, Goki Tajima (JPN) vs Mihael Zgank (TUR)

In the second match for a bronze medal, Ivan Felipe Silva Morales (CUB) faced Theodoros Tselidis (GRE). Tselidis never seemed really in a position to put some danger in front of his opponent. Struggling, breathing heavily, not at all on top of his game, he was more surviving than being a commander of his own destiny. It took some time though for Silva Morales to win in golden score, after the third penalty was awarded to Tselidis. The bronze was for Ivan Felipe Silva Morales.

Medal, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Ioseb BAGHATURIA, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia and Mr Giorgi ATABEGASHVILI, President of the Georgian Judo Federation

Final (-90 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-90 kg)

More images of the Tbilisi Grand Slam 2023 - CLICK HERE

See also