This important event has just taken place in Almada, within the framework of the Grand Prix Portugal 2023. However, the draw of the day had a particular flavour, since it was the very first one of this new season. From today, we can say that the World Judo Tour 2023 is launched. It is certain that there are still a few hours to wait before the first athletes present themselves on the tatami of the Complexo Municipal dos Desportos da Cidade de Almada, but it is also certain that there is no longer a possible point of return. This is exactly what everyone involved in the draw said during the thirty minutes of the procedure.
After the introduction words from Dr Lisa Allan, IJF Events Director, who said, "It's the first event of the year, the first grand prix of the season and the first official draw," Vlad Marinescu, IJF Director General, took the floor and declared, "Dear friends from Portugal and from all over the world, following us online, in the name of our President, Marius Vizer, we are happy and excited to be here for the 2023 edition of Grand Prix Portugal. Thank you to everyone who is involved in the organisation. We are looking forward to the performances of all the athletes. I wish them good luck."
Sérgio Pina, Vice-President of the Portuguese Judo Federation, said, "I welcome you all to Almada, Portugal. We are very proud to organise this second grand prix in a row. We want to thank President Vizer for the confidence he puts in us to handle such an event. I also want to wish good luck to everyone."
Dr Allan underlined the fact that, "It is always a real pleasure to be working with the local organising committee, who show great professionalism and friendship."
Before the beginning of the draw procedure itself, led by Vladimir Barta, IJF Head Sport Director, Florin Daniel Lascau, Head Refereeing Director, explained that the best referees on the planet were invited to officiate during the grand prix, because, "We want to make sure that the quality of the refereeing meets the World Judo Tour level."
Once the draw was revealed, Dr Lisa Allan concluded by giving important and useful information. Thus the competition will start at 9:00am on day 1 and 2 and at 10:00am on day 3, on three mats, with the final block being played everyday at 17:00.
With 544 competitors (317 men and 227 women) from 81 countries and from the five continents, it is not an easy job to analyse all categories, especially when you have 60 athletes at -73kg or 52 at -81kg and more than 30 competitors in most of the female categories.
Portugal is not only the start of the season, it is the kick-off of an exciting period for the judo world. Next week will be Paris, then Tel Aviv, Tashkent, Tbilisi and Antalya before the World Championships in Doha, Qatar (7th to 14th May). As the pressure will increase week after week and as we are seeing Paris 2024 looming across the horizon, we can be assured that 2023 will be full of surprises. As the exercice is difficult, let us take the rest of finding one interesting point in each category.
-48kg: Will Catarina Costa (POR), who won in front of her public at the first edition of Grand Prix Portugal, in 2022, be able to do it again?
-52kg: World number one, Chelsie Giles (GBR) has a good chance to reinforce her position if she performs here.
-57kg: The current world champion and former Olympic champion, Rafaela Silva (BRA), is in good shape but in Israel last December, she finished seventh. She will want to show that it was just an accident.
-63kg: South America, with Anriquelis Barrios (VEN) and Ketleyn Quadros (BRA) could perform well in Portugal.
-70kg: Elvismar Rodriguez (VEN) has the chance to win a second grand prix in her career to launch a season that she expects to be better than last year, bringing a bronze medal in Zagreb.
-78kg: In the absence of the top favourites of the category, there is room for an outsider, Emma Reid perhaps?
+78kg: Rochele Nunes (POR) wants to shine in front of her public.
-60kg: It's the return of Luka Mkheidze (FRA), who got injured after his brilliant bronze medal in Tokyo 2024. He's not seeded, but does that really matter?
-66kg: Former world champion and bronze medallist at the 2022 worlds, An Baul (KOR) is ready to show who is the boss.
-73kg: The main fact is that it's the most populous category and for sure that will bring a lot of excitement.
-81kg: Joonhwan Lee (KOR) was one of the revelations of last year but things did not go the way he wished during the world championships. It's time for redemption.
-90kg: Krisztian Toth (HUN) is an experienced judoka, maybe the most experienced of the category and is top seed. We might see him on top of the podium again.
-100kg: Lukas Krpalek (CZE) is back! He was not really gone, as he won the Olympic title in Tokyo but he is back in his beloved weight category and that's an incredible challenge for the double Olympic champion and everyone waiting there to meet him.
+100kg: There are some spots to be taken in the ranking list for many athletes and Portugal will be the place for that before the comeback of Teddy Riner in Paris, next week.
Just one point from each category could never be enough but it’s enough to tease us. Keep up with the answers to all these questions and predictions at live.IJF.org