Hungary’s capital city of Budapest hosts the third IJF qualification event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this weekend as 578 judoka from 86 nations will compete at the László Papp Budapest Sports Arena.
Following Grand Prix events in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China, and Zagreb, Croatia, the IJF World Judo Tour has returned to the home of the 2017 World Judo Championships for the final competition before the 2018 World Judo Championships this September in Baku, Azerbaijan. Thursday’s draw took place at the Sofitel just metres away from the famed Széchenyi Chain Bridge and the Danube river. The Budapest Grand Prix will see 578 judoka (364 men and 232 women) grace the four tatami over the next three days.
Mr. Naser AL-TAMIMI, IJF General Treasurer, said: “Dear László, IJF Executive Committee members, officials, referees, coaches, staff, media representatives, I welcome you all to Budapest, on behalf of the IJF President Marius VIZER. I would like to thank the Hungarian Judo Association, our partners, sponsors, the media and everyone supporting our IJF World Judo Tour and our competition this weekend. “Good luck to all delegations here in Budapest. I wish you the best of luck at our last event before the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.”
Dr. TÓTH László, Hungarian Judo Association President, said: “Good afternoon everyone, welcome to Budapest. It is a pleasure to see the judo family again here in Hungary. Since we hosted the World Judo Championships we have been looking forward to seeing you all back here for another competition. I wish you all a successful weekend and a great stay in Hungary.”
Olympic and world champions among world-class line-up
Olympic champions Paula PARETO (ARG) and Rafaela SILVA (BRA) will both be in action on Friday. PARETO will compete at -48kg while SILVA, who is one of the most active champions on the circuit, has her first medal of the season in her sights at -57kg. World champion WOLF Aaron (JPN) competes internationally for the first time since he won the blue ribbon event of the IJF World Judo Tour in the same city a year ago. Olympic and world silver medallist Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO), Openweight World Championships silver medallist Toma NIKIFOROV, double Olympic bronze medallist Leandro GUILHEIRO (BRA) and Paris Grand Slam winner Christa DEGUCHI (CAN) are all among the star-studded entry.
Referees make the grade at IJF Academy
A 17-strong IJF referee delegation, who will officiate this weekend at the Budapest Grand Prix, all successfully passed a practical IJF Academy examination on Wednesday in the Hungarian capital. The new initiative was introduced before the Zagreb Grand Prix a fortnight ago and the second instalment, with a different set group of referees, was staged at KSI Judo Club – the home club of Hungarian stars such as Toth Krisztian and Joo Abigel – from Monday to Wednesday. "I thoroughly enjoyed the course, it was a physical and mental challenge," said referee Mariano Dos Santos from Brazil.
"Being on the tatami training for six hours per day is very difficult but it was very worthwhile and beneficial to all the referees. It helped to bring us closer together and we are all looking forward to being on the tatami as referees in Budapest this weekend."
“The IJF Academy collaboration with the referees is a great project," said IJF President Marius Vizer.
"Together we are all striving to present our sport in the best possible way and this is one method to equip our referees with extra skills and principles which will remain with them on the tatami.
“I thank everyone taking part, I wish the referee’s success here and at the Grand Prix, thank you to all the IJF Academy team and everyone here today.
“The IJF Academy and Judo for Children are two of the leading IJF programmes and we are very happy with the results. I wish you all a successful Grand Prix and a nice time in Budapest.”
Watch all three days of #JudoBudapest2018 live and free on the IJF website.
Olympic champion Paula PARETO (ARG) will grace the Budapest Grand Prix with the most coveted backpatch in her weight category. The Argentine superstar, 32, was crowned Olympic champion in 2016 having won bronze back at the Beijing 2008 Games. Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games Athlete Role Model PARETO took silver at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam in March before winning her fourth Pan American Championships title in April. Budapest specialist ENDO Hiromi (JPN) won the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam in March, her only outing on the IJF World Judo Tour this year. ENDO, who has world champion TONAKI Funa and Olympic bronze medallist KONDO Ami (JPN) ahead of her in the Japanese pecking order, has form in Hungary’s capital having won the Cadet World Championships and the Budapest Grand Prix in 2016. European Championships silver medallist Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) made a surprise return to the -48kg category at the Zagreb Grand Prix a fortnight ago where she was eliminated in the second round by eventual winner Daria BILODID and could be a factor on day one.
Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallists Charline VAN SNICK (BEL) and Angelica DELGADO (USA) will be joined together again this weekend as both have registered for the third Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification event. Two-time Olympian VAN SNICK won bronze at London 2012 while DELGADO made her Olympic bow at the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Former Tokyo Grand Slam winner TSUNODA Natsumi (JPN) appears at a Grand Prix for the first time having debuted on the IJF World Judo Tour in 2016 at the age of 23. Olympic silver medallist Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) returns to IJF duty for the first time since the 2017 World Championships in the same location European silver medallist Alesya KUZNETSOVA (RUS) is still relatively early into her switch from -48kg to -52kg and is ranked 46th in the world. The Russian ne-waza ace has only won one Grand Prix, back in 2013, and will also face competition on Friday from Junior World Championships bronze medallist Melissa HURTADO MUNOZ (CUB) who makes her Grand Prix debut.
Paris Grand Slam winner Christa DEGUCHI (CAN) is the only judoka in the sport who has won gold at the two opening events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification phase. Japan-based DEGUCHI, 22, has won five gold medals from five outings this year, with the Hohhot Grand Prix and Zagreb Grand Prix being the most important. DEGUCHI, 22, has won 24 contests in a row and astoundingly all by ippon. Olympic champion Rafaela SILVA (BRA), Olympic bronze medallist Telma MONTEIRO (POR) and former world champion UDAKA Nae (JPN) all contribute to the -57kg category again being one one of the standout categories at a Grand Prix event.
Düsseldorf Grand Slam winner Andreja LESKI (SLO), European Championships bronze medallist Martyna TRAJDOS (GER) and Hohhot Grand Prix gold medallist NOUCHI Aimi (JPN) are all world-class judoka while Cancun Grand Prix bronze medallist Anriquelis BARRIOS (VEN), former Tokyo Grand Slam winner TSUGANE Megumi (JPN) and Pan American Championships winner Maylin DEL TORO CARVAJAL (CUB) are rising names in the category and are dreaming of qualifying for their first Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
Olympic bronze medallist Sally CONWAY (GBR) - who took bronze in Zagreb a fortnight ago - has now won four medals in consecutive events which is new personal best. The world number nine won in Paris, took bronze in Antalya and silver at the European’s before her podium appearance in Croatia. The second -70kg Olympic bronze medallist from Rio, Laura VARGAS KOCH (GER), has to go back to November 2017 for her last individual medal. The German star has slipped down to 33rd place in the world rankings and will be desperate to put together some wins with the World Championships coming up next month. Antalya Grand Prix winner Anna BERNHOLM (SWE), Hohhot Grand Prix gold medallist Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED), world silver medallist Maria PEREZ (PUR) and Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Assmaa NIANG (MAR) are all capable of medalling in Budapest.
World number two Natalie POWELL (GBR) was below-par in her last competition in Zagreb as the Welsh judoka lost her first contest. Irfon Judo Club’s world bronze medallist will be expected to bounce back this weekend in the same venue where she achieved the best result of her career at the World Championships last year. Former world champion UMEKI Mami (JPN) could be considered the favourite for gold in Hungary with world bronze medallist Kaliema ANTOMARCHI (CUB), Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Anna Maria WAGNER (GER) and 18-time Grand Prix medallist Luise MALZAHN (GER) all chasing medal honours on day three.
Cuban legend Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) made her 2018 bow by winning the Pan American Championships in April. European silver medallist Larisa CERIC (BIH) and Düsseldorf Grand Slam bronze medallist Iryna KINDZERSKA (AZE) are two dependable European forces at +78kg while Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Yelyzaveta KALANINA (UKR) is part of her country’s ever flourishing roster of exciting judoka. Tbilisi Grand Prix silver medallist Maryna SLUTSKAYA (BLR) is currently ranked eighth in the world and will need to retain or improve on this position in order to be seeded for the World Championships.
Düsseldorf Grand Slam gold medallist NAGAYAMA Ryuju (JPN) has been usurped by teammate and reigning world champion TAKATO Naohisa (JPN) as the leader of the -60kg category. NAGAYAMA, however, will only be focused on his own competition and who’s in front of him in Budapest. The world number two is making his Grand Prix debut on Friday and needs to win gold to keep pace with TAKATO. Düsseldorf Grand Slam runner-up Robert MSHVIDOBADZE (RUS) finished fifth at the Hohhot Grand Prix and will need to break through and record a first Grand Prix win in this Olympic qualification period. Tbilisi Grand Prix silver medallist Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO) has seen his form dip this year but could return to winning ways at a crucial time in the season.
Zagreb Grand Prix silver medallist Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) won the World Championships in 2009 but, at 30, is still a star attraction on the circuit and a leading performer. Tashkent Grand Prix winner Dzmitry MINKOU will also command the attention of his peers on day one. (BLR). Nine-time Grand Prix medallist DOVDON Altansukh (MGL) abruptly ended the unbeaten run of world champion ABE Hifumi (JPN) in Zagreb only to go on and finish in fifth-place. The Mongolian will be seeking consistency rather than headlines this weekend.
World bronze medallist GANBAATAR Odbayar (MGL) has lost three bronze medal contests in his last three IJF events and will hope that his fortunes change on day two in Budapest. The world number four has but won five Grand Prix medals but gold has so far eluded him. Three-time world champion EBINUMA Masashi (JPN) is the judoka which stands out in the -73kg category this weekend. Double Olympic bronze medallist EBINUMA struggled on his first appearance at -73kg on the IJF World Judo Tour as he lost his second contest at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam in March to seven-time Grand Prix medallist Zhansay SMAGULOV (KAZ). European Championships bronze medallist Tommy MACIAS (SWE) and former World Judo Masters winner Denis IARTCEV (RUS) are all established top-15 judoka at this weight. EBINUMA will hope for a more fruitful -73kg experience while unsure of his next IJF competition having been selected for the Asian Games rather than the World Championships.
Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Frank DE WIT (NED) has won two Grand Slam gold medals but is yet to top a medal podium on the Grand Prix stage. The Dutchman starts as the top seed with over 50 judoka eying vital Olympic qualification points and a tilt at medals in the final IJF event before the World Championships 2018. Zagreb Grand Prix winner Dominic RESSEL (GER) recorded a star-making victory in July and will confident of outperforming world champion Alexander WIECZERZAK (GER) who has not fought on IJF World Judo Tour since his famous victory in Budapest last year. Hohhot Grand Prix bronze medallist Alan KHUBETSOV (RUS), Zagreb Grand Prix silver medallist Matthias CASSE (BEL), European champion Sagi MUKI (ISR) and Brazilian legend Leandro GUILHEIRO (BRA) could play their part in the outcome of the -81kg category on Saturday evening.
Ekaterinburg Grand Slam winner Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) starts as the favourite and top seed as the world number one at -90kg. KUKOLJ is ready to grace the competition tatami one final time before September’s World Championships where he hopes to keep the title in Serbia but prise it away from his teammate Nemanja MAJDOV (SRB). Hungary’s medal ambitions will rest largely on the well-constructed shoulders of former world silver medallist TOTH Krisztian (HUN). Four-time Grand Prix winner TOTH can expect a thunderous ovation from his compatriots as he battles to try and repeat his 2016 victory of his home Grand Prix. European Championships bronze medallist Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP), world bronze medallist Ushangi MARGIANI (GEO) and Zagreb Grand Prix silver medallist Asley GONZALEZ (CUB) have all signed up for the last blockbuster event before Baku 2018 but it’s Paris Grand Slam winner and Grand Prix debutant MUKAI Shoichiro (JPN) who could leave the greatest impression on Sunday.
Düsseldorf Grand Slam winner Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) has flown in following a training camp in Japan. The Olympic and world silver medallist is competing on the IJF World Judo Tour for the first time since winning in Germany in February and the welcoming committee will include world champion WOLF Aaron (JPN), Openweight World Championships silver medallist Toma NIKIFOROV (BEL), former world silver medallist Jose ARMENTEROS (CUB) and World Judo Masters bronze medallist CIRJENICS Miklos (HUN).
The heavyweight crown will be settled on Sunday evening and it will be a wide open competition with no clear favourite. European Championships bronze medallist Stephan HEGYI (AUT), Paris Grand Slam winner KAGEURA Kokoro (JPN) and Antalya Grand Prix bronze medallist Andy GRANDA (CUB) will all be heavyweight contenders on the third and final day of competition in Hungary.