The first IJF World Judo Tour Event of the year has now officially come to a close and what a way to kick us off! Grand Prix Portugal 2023 was another well-run event which produced plenty of spectacular judo, from powerful throws and great transitions, to fierce exchanges on the ground, which delighted the busy Portuguese crowd.

544 athletes from 81 countries took to the tatami in Almada, among them the newest member country of the IJF, São Tomé and Principe. At the end of the 3 days of competition, it was the Republic of Korea that topped the medal table with 4 golds, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal. A grand total of 26 countries managed to secure at least one of the 56 available medals, further illustrating the depth of judo talent across the world.

The home nation Portugal took 2nd place in the medal table with 2 golds and a silver, thanks to Barbara Timo, Patricia Sampaio and Rochele Nunes. While they can be delighted with that ranking, they might wonder what could’ve been, with Nunes leading against Hayun Kim (KOR) in the final, only to hand victory to the Korean, and top seed Costa only managing to take 5th place. Those minor setbacks aside, this is still a fantastic result for the home country and there were some promising performances amongst the rest of the team, particularly from Joao Fernando at -81kg and Celio Dias at -100kg, each chalking up two impressive wins in tough categories.

13 players won their first ever World Judo Tour medal and they will be hoping to use this result as a springboard for further success. There were excellent performances from top seeds Obidkhon Nomonov (UZB), Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO) and Chelsea Giles (GBR) and some standout judo from the prodigious teenagers Yamato Fukuda (JPN), Mihail Latisev (MDA), Dota Arai (JPN) and Yelyzaveta Lytvynenko (UKR).

We saw the successful return of the great champion Lukas Krpalek at -100kg, after 6 years at the weight above. He fought through patiently to take a bronze medal. There was also a first success at the higher weight category of -90kg for Ivalyo Ivanov (BUL), after he moved up in March last year and it was a gold medal to boot. 

Aoife Coughlan (AUS) took home her first ever grand prix gold, in the -70kg category, and only the second ever for her country. Double world medallist Nekoda Smythe-Davis also won her first World Judo Tour medal since becoming a mother. De Villiers (NZL), also a young mum, fought and although there was no medal for her, this shows that the opportunity to continue competing in high-level judo is available and real and not just a one-off. More can be read on this theme: CLICK HERE

With a great first event of the year in the bag, the next stop on the IJF World Tour will come around quickly, as the Paris Grand Slam 2023 kicks off in less than a week’s time. With a great number of athletes entered from even more countries and more valuable Olympic qualification points up for grabs, it promises to be another magnificent weekend of judo. If you can’t join us in the 15,000-strong crowd at the Accor Hotels Arena, be sure to catch all the action from Saturday 4th February on See you in Paris!

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