While in a few days the traditional Paris Grand Slam will open, it is time to take non-exhaustive stock of the lessons learned from the first tournament of this Olympic season, Grand Prix Portugal 2024. This assessment cannot be exhaustive, because it would take pages for all the conclusions to be drawn.
Diyora Keldiyorova and Marko Spittka

Uzbekistan, coached by Ilias Iliadis and Marko Spittka, leapt to a thunderous start, winning two titles on the first day of competition, one among the men (Dilshodbek Baratov) and the other among the women (Diyora Keldiyorova), confirming for both of them, that they will have to be counted on in the months to come. The next two days were a little more tricky for Uzbekistan but the overall result is quite good.

Japan, with a very young team, some elements appearing on the World Judo Tour for the very first time, came out at the top of the ranking of nations with nine medals, including two gold. It is always impressive to see the depth of Japanese judo. None of the athletes present in Odivelas will be in Paris this summer, but some of them will undoubtedly be in Los Angeles in five years. What is certain is that a new generation of Japanese champions is already in the starting blocks. What they demonstrated during the weekend is promising.

Yoshito Hojo (JPN) in action

Türkiye ended a very successful tournament in style. With the victories of Mihael Zgank (-90kg) and Hilal Ozturk (+78kg), as well as the final of Vedat Aalbayrak (-81kg) and the two fifth places of Ibrahim Tataroglu (+100kg) and Sila Ersin (-48kg), Türkiye presents a consistent team, where experience and youth combine.

We appreciated the 'almost' winning return of Nikoloz Sherazadishvili (ESP) who after his difficult climb to -100kg, seemed to regain a large part of his judo, the same judo which allowed him to become double world champion in the -90kg category. As he recognises, he must still stock up on power to be able to express himself perfectly in his new category. The challenge is great in any case.

Sherazadishvili was only outclassed by the impressive mastery of Matvey Kanikovskiy (AIN) who seemed to go through the rounds with relative ease. He is quite a client for the big rendezvous to come. The same observation can be made about Inal Tasoev (AIN) who flies over the competition, both standing and on the ground. Danil Lavrentev (AIN) and the 2021 world champion Yago Abuladze (AIN) also made a good impression.

Matvey Kanikovskiy (AIN) vs Nikoloz Sherazadishvili (ESP)

At -57kg Mimi Huh (KOR) demonstrated that she is a serious contender for the world and/or Olympic podium. We also discovered in Portugal a team from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which even if they do not reach the podium, are not very far from it.

At -63kg things were quite open and it was Lucy Renshall (GBR) who did the best. This weekend's Paris Grand Slam will give us even more information on the forces involved, with the participation of Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA), among others, whose challenge to perform during the Games is grandiose, enormous and exciting.

Barbara Matic (CRO)

At -70kg it is one of the pillars in the category who won. Barbara Matic (CRO) is a machine for winning medals on the World Judo Tour and she proved it again in Portugal.

At -78kg we know that Germany performs very well, with Anna-Maria Wagner (WRL 4) and Alina Boehm (WRL 6) under usual circumstances, but in Odivelas it was a third German athlete, Anna Monta Olek, who won the gold medal. This proves once again that emulation within the same federation is good. It allows all athletes to raise their level.

Many countries are not necessarily at the level we expect them to be. France with two bronze medals as well as Mongolia, Israel with a bronze medal, as well as the Netherlands, are below expectations, but it is too early to draw conclusions. Many countries sent young athletes to compete against more experienced judoka and the future is in the making for them.

Anna Monta Olek (GER) in action

The Paris Grand Slam will give us a more precise idea of what awaits us in the months to come. Everything is crystallising so that in May, after the Abu Dhabi World Championships, we will finally know who will participate in the big Olympic party. A lot of colours shone in Portugal, we expect at least as many in Paris at the end of the week.

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