In the -90kg category at the Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam 2024, the seeded athletes were downed one after another in the preliminary rounds. In round 2 alone, Rafael Macedo (BRA) was knocked out by Altanbagana Gantulga (MGL), Tristani Mosakhlishvil (ESP), gold medallist in Astana last year, was disqualified after a head dive and David Klammert (CZE) succumbed to Juyeop Han’s (KOR) strategy, someone he shared the podium with at the Dushanbe Grand Slam last week. Only former world champion Nemanja Madjov (SRB) and current European champion Eljan Hajiyev were able to affirm their ranking by making it to the quarter-final stage.
Final, Eduard Trippel (GER) vs Yahor Varapeyeu (AIN)

Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallist Eduard Trippel (GER) hasn’t made it onto a World Judo Tour podium since the Tokyo Grand Slam 2022 and ahead of the event he was languishing in 40thplace in the Olympic rankings. If he were to have any chance of Olympic glory again, he needed a good result here and that’s exactly what he got. The German re-discovered his form when it really mattered, throwing all of his opponents on his way to the final.

In round 2 he dispatched fifth seed Komronshokh Ustopiriyon (UZB) in just 36 seconds with two waza-ari scores, first with his favourite soto-makikomi, followed by uchi-mata with an unusual set of grips. He again took less than a minute to defeat Mamedaly Achyldyyev (TKM) in round 3, turning his opponent over with ease and submitting him with juji-gatame.

Final, Eduard Trippel (GER) vs Yahor Varapeyeu (AIN)

At the quarter-final stage Trippel met Nika Khazazishvili (GEO), who had taken full advantage of Mosakhlishvili’s early exit. The German countered a close-range attack from the Georgian with sumi-otoshi to score waza-ari in the third minute of the contest. After escaping a juji-gatame attempt from his opponent in the final minute, he held on to progress to the semi-final.

There Trippel came up against 20-year-old Vugar Talibov (AZE), silver medallist in the Antalya Grand Slam 2024, who had also thrown all of his previous opponents. The 27-year-old German athlete came up with the goods once more, however, throwing the Azeri with tani-otoshi for waza-ari before transitioning straight into another juji-gatame to take the victory. An elated Trippel couldn’t contain his emotion; the significance of this win was clear.

In the other half of the draw, there was another return to form of sorts for none other than Yahor Varaayeu (AIN). The world number 63 won his only grand slam medal way back at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam 2018 and hasn’t made it to a World Judo Tour final block since then. He defeated Marcelo Gomes (BRA) in round 2, countering the Brazilian using uki-otoshi to score ippon with 10 seconds left on the clock. A tactical victory over Han in round 3 sent him through to face Majdov in the quarter-final. After an extremely close match, Varapayeu pulled off an incredible uchi-mata in the second minute of golden score to score a dramatic ippon against the Serbian.

Awaiting the Individual Neutral Athlete in the semi-final would be Hajiyev. In our preview we noted his need for a good result to close the gap on his teammate Murad Fatiyev in the Olympic rankings. Indeed, the Azeri had displayed superb courage and composure throughout the preliminaries, defeating Yermakhan Anuarbekov (KAZ) in round 2, coming from behind to beat Li Kochman in round 3, and besting the in-form Alex Cret (ROU) in their quarter-final. But despite scoring a waza-ari midway through the semi-final, he landed head first attempting to throw his opponent a second time, leading to his disqualification. That stroke of luck sent Varapayeu through to his second grand slam final.

In the final, Trippel seemed to run out of steam. He was penalised early for a false attack, while Varapayeu threatened to score multiple times with kata-guruma. After being awarded a second shido for another false attack, the German’s confidence was shattered and his opponent saw his chance and took it. Varapayeu threw Trippel twice in quick succession with kata-guruma to score waza-ari-awasete-ippon and take home his first ever grand slam gold medal. The Individual Neutral Athlete will head to the world championships with a spring in his step but he may have left it too late to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Bronze medal contest, Eldar Allakhverdiev (AIN) vs Eljan Hajiyev (AZE)

Hajiyev took on Dushanbe Grand Prix 2023 silver medallist Eldar Allakhverdiev (AIN) in the first of the bronze medal contests after the latter defeated Kharazishvili in their repechage contest. Hajiyev made stronger attacks throughout the contest and in the final minute he produced two spectacular throws to score twice, first with ura-nage and later with utsuri-goshi, to earn himself his third grand slam bronze medal. With this result, Hajiyev closes the gap on Fatiyev in the Olympic rankings but will still trail by 300 points going into 2024 World Championships.

Bronze medalllist, Vugar Talibov (AZE)

Majdov and Talibov faced off for the second bronze medal. Both judoka had picked up two penalties heading into the final minute, both struggling to create strong attacks. A third penalty to Majdov for a bear hug with 20 seconds remaining handed the win to Talibov. The young Azeri earned his second grand slam bronze medal and will join his teammates Hajiyev and Fatiyev in an Olympic qualifying position, though he is likely to need to wait for his turn.

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Saken Mussaibekov, Vice President of the Kazakhstan Judo Federation, and Mr Aibek Imashev, CEO of the Kazakhstan Judo Federation

Final (-90 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-90 kg)

See also