The stars of the IJF World Judo Tour will be out in force in Paris but we've picked out five French Grand Slam debutants who could catch the eye this weekend.
The AccorHotels Arena will be transformed into a theatre of judo

Allan Kuwabara (BRA)

Age: 27

Weight category: -60kg

Best results: Brasilia GS 2019 Gold

Allan Kuwabara (BRA) won his home Grand Slam last year while ranked number 202 in the world. Now inside the world’s top 50, Kuwabara has been called up for his second Grand Slam outing and his first overseas.

Kuwabara is undefeated on the Grand Slam stage

The Sao Paulo native, who now occupies 46th place on the IJF World Ranking List, was a revelation in Brasilia but, as a late bloomer, in a category where his country already has a number of contenders, his opportunities were expected to be limited in 2020.

To their credit Brazil have changed their plans and Kuwabara will be in action on Saturday and comes into the event on the back of a bronze medal at the Bulgarian European Open last weekend.

Koga Wakana (JPN)

Age: 18

Weight category: -48kg

Best results: Montreal GP 2019 Gold, Junior Worlds 2019 Gold, Osaka GS 2019 Bronze

Junior World Championships gold medallist Koga Wakana will receive the greatest test yet of her credentials as the teenage standout takes on the world’s elite at the first major of the season.

World number 28 Koga, who is no relation to Koga Toshihiko, beat former world champion and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Kondo Ami (JPN) in a bronze medal contest to open her Grand Slam medal account in Osaka and to be selected over the six-time Grand Slam winner for Japan’s trip to Paris.

Koga (white judogi) throws Kondo (JPN) with an uchi-mata in Osaka

Koga could well be in the medal shake-up on Saturday evening and will be hopeful of a contest against double world champion Daria Bilodid (UKR) who is unbeaten against Japanese opposition.

Kim Minjong (KOR)

Age: 19

Weight category: +100kg

Best results: World Championships 2019 Bronze

World heavyweight bronze medallist Kim Minjong (KOR) needs to add Grand Slam honours to his honours reel as he battles for selection for Tokyo 2020.

World number 14 Kim, who won the Hohhot Grand Prix last year, has tasted Grand Slam action at both editions in Osaka and now leaves Asia for the first time for an IJF major.

Undersized but fearless - Kim beat man-mountain Silva for bronze at the Worlds

Kim has teammate and defending champion Kim Sungmin (KOR) for company in Paris and the latter, who is ranked sixth in the world, currently has the edge in the race for Olympic selection but that could all change on Sunday.

Theodoros Tselidis (GRE)

Age: 23

Weight category: -90kg

Best results: Hohhot GP 2018 bronze, European Championships 2018 bronze

Former Hohhot Grand Prix bronze medallist Tselidis (GRE) opened his 2020 season with a low-key outing in Tel Aviv. The Greek hope defeated Francisco Balanta (COL) by a waza-ari score before falling to eventual bronze medallist Rafael Macedo (BRA) who is a world-class operator.

Tselidis (far right) on the Grand Prix podium in China

Tselidis returned to the circuit in November after a year-long lay-off and is gradually and has had three contests during his two events (Osaka Grand Slam and Tel Aviv Grand Prix).

The world number 60 clearly needs more contests to get back into his stride but still has the raw ability to spring a shock in Paris as he targets an unlikely late qualification run for Tokyo 2020.

Hussain Shah Shah (PAK)

Age: 26

Weight category: -100kg

Best results: Asian Championships bronze medal (2013, 2015), Abu Dhabi GS 2019 5th place

The Rio 2016 Olympian made his IJF World Judo Tour debut a decade ago at the Worlds in Tokyo.

Shah, 26, who is ranked number 47 in the world, lives in Tokyo and has travelled all over the world to fight to put Pakistan on the map in judo but he’s never fought at the Paris Grand Slam.

Shah (white judogi) was the first Pakistan judoka to compete in an IJF medal contest - in this losing effort against Elnahas (CAN)

The uchi-mata and harai-goshi specialist is a regular at the Kodokan for their weekly Wednesday elite men's session which features top University judoka and members of the Japanese team.

Shah, who is sporting a new shaved head look, came within touching distance of winning Pakistan’s first IJF World Judo Tour medal in Abu Dhabi as he finished in fifth-place in October and that experience will spur him on as he lives out one of his dreams by competing in the AccorHotels Arena on the second and final day of competition in France.

See also