During the opening ceremony which took place just before the final block, President Vizer underlined the work of all the actors who for years have made a huge success of the Tournoi de Paris, which has become a grand slam and holds its popularity, "Secretary General Jean-Luc Rougé, the European Judo Union and Sergey Soloveychik, to the media and partners and of course all the champions and heroes who have built the history of this event for 50 years, all should be congratulated. Congratulations to the French Federation, which in a difficult period for all, took up the challenge to organise the Grand Slam. It is a major sign for the whole judo family which provides enthusiasm and brings hope. Hajime!"
The President of France Judo, Stéphane Nomis then spoke with emotion, "To all judo lovers, to all the volunteers, I want to tell you how deeply moved I am. Thank you to all our champions who shone this summer in Japan. You sent a message of hope to the public and to the Federation members. During the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, we shone together. Our Federation is at the service of the members because judo is for you. We are seeing the blossoming of the Paris 2024 generation and I promise you that the Games in Paris will be enormous!"
A few minutes before the first matches of the final block started, the public celebrated their favourite champions. The first to climb onto the tatami under the ovation of the public was Lucie Decosse, record holder for the number of grand slam victories in Paris, with 7 gold medals, now national coach of the French team.
She was followed by the great Teddy Riner, who as a perfect showman, raised the temperature in the Accor Arena. To the delight of the public announced that he wanted to come back here to at least equal Lucie's number of victories. He also specified that ideally he would do everything to be again present with the French team during the 2024 Games.
It was then the double Olympic champion Clarisse Agbegnenou who advanced to the centre of the tatami. In a perfect gesture to illustrate the spirit of judo, she was accompanied by Tina Trstenjak (SLO). The two Olympic champions have been competing for years all over the world, sharing the titles of the last two Olympics: Rio and Tokyo. They are the best friends in the world and have demonstrated it perfectly. Finally, Céline Lebrun was also honoured for her six victories in Paris.
Clarisse then remained on the tatami to present high grade diplomas and belts to French judoka who have dedicated their lives to the development of judo in France.
-48kg: Japan Dominates, France scores Points
The category was largely dominated by French athletes, since only Mélanie Vieu was blocked in the preliminary rounds, while the other three climbed on the podium. The day would have been perfect if the Japanese judoka, Wakana Koga, had not slipped in the middle to snatch the title from France. The latter quickly imposed her power against Mélanie Legoux Clément and pinned her down to make the Japanese anthem resonate in the Accor Arena.
The two bronze medals went to Shirine Boukli on her return to competition, after her defeat in the early rounds of the Tokyo Games and to Blandine Pont, winner of the Zagreb Grand Prix a few weeks ago.
Wakana Koga declared, "People here are amazing. I love the atmosphere. I enjoyed today so much."
After the -48kg medal ceremony, President Marius Vizer remained on stage to present the statue of Jigoro Kano designed by the Herend Porcelain company, to Kate Howey, world champion and double Olympic medallist, who this weekend retires as the British National Coach.
-60kg: Outsider Aghayev Upsets the Best
Among the top seeds of the category, only Ramazan Abdulaev managed to reach the final, but the Russian judoka was upset by the outsider Balabay Aghayev of Azerbaijan, who proved to be the strongest by far. It is interesting to underline the performance of Romain Valadier Picard, who last week won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in Olbia, Italy and who again stepped on the podium after a very good day in Paris.
A first medal at that level, while still junior, is a good sign for Valadier Picard and for the French team. The second bronze medal went to Ariunbold Enkhtaivan (MGL) who defeated Genki Koga, the son of the late, legendary judoka Toshihiko Koga.
Balabay Aghayev said, "We did not prepare a special strategy before the final. The plan was just to attack. It worked, so we were right."
-52kg: Gefen Primo Confirms Her Potential
The Primo sisters (ISR) are nuggets which, even if they still need to be polished to give them all their shine, are already among the best in the world. Last week, the younger sister, Kerem won the silver medal at the Junior World Championships. Today Gefen confirmed that she will be one of the leaders of the category in the years to come. Already a world bronze medallist, she is now a winner of the Paris Grand Slam. She defeated Astride Gneto in the final after a long golden score period, with an opportunist’s counter-attack.
The two bronze medals went to Khorloodoi Bishrelt (MGL) and Mascha Ballhaus (GER).
-66kg: Japan and France Once Again
At -66kg, the category was once again dominated by two countries: Japan and France. Ryoma Tanaka and Taikoh Fujisaka competed for gold in the final. After a very close match, Ryoma Tanaka, a member of Tsukuba University, produced a purely Japanese style move with utsuri-goshi, to win with a spectacular ippon.
Orlando Cazorla (FRA) produced a massive o-goshi against the Mongolian Narmandakh Bayanmunkh to win bronze, while Walide Khyar completed the podium for team France after pushing Denis Vieru (MDL) to the limit in a long and stressful golden score. The Moldovan competitor was disqualified after he dived on the head, a lesson to learn for the future. The rules are really strict when it comes to diving on the head; it’s all about safety.
-57kg: Funakubo Wins Third Gold Medal for Japan
Haruka Funakubo once again demonstrated the skills of the Japanese athletes, especially the women, on the floor. Everybody knows that going into ne-waza with Japanese competitors is always risky. In the final Funakubo quickly concluded on the floor against Caroline Fritze (GER), to win her first gold medal at this level.
Eteri Liparteliani (GEO) confirmed that she will be one of the strong competitors of the category in the years to come. After a defeat against French judoka Faiza Mokdar, she managed to concentrate again to go for bronze, while the French lost on the other side of the draw. The second bronze medal was won by another newcomer at this level, with Mina Libeer of Belgium.
The level of this edition of the Paris Grand Slam might not be as high as it can be when we are in the middle of Olympic qualification, nevertheless it remains very interesting. First of all, competing in Paris is always complicated and winning a medal here remains a good performance, but also we are discovering a lot of new names this weekend in the French capital. These new names will soon be regular on the World Judo Tour. So we shall remember Funakubo, Fritze, Liparteliani and Libeer.
-73:g: Fourth Gold Medal for Japan
Since the morning Theo Riquin offered a lot of hope to the French public, adding one performance after another, particularly against the Russian Iartcev and the Tadjik Makhmadbekov. Could he reach the same level as the Japanese Kenshi Harada?
Everyone believed in that possibility during the normal time of the final and during most of the golden score period, until Harada found the opportunity, again on the ground, to execute a dazzling leg release, to then pin with kata-gatame, bringing him the title.
The two bronze medals went to former European Champion Hidayat Heydarov (AZE) after a masterpiece kata-guruma for ippon and to Alexandru Raicu (ROU).
-63kg: Timo Concludes Day 1 With Gold
The last category of the day was won by Barbara Timo for Portugal, a result which, if expected at the start of the day, was not obvious, since the Portuguese judoka was not among the favourites for the title. There are days like this, however, when everything works. It must be said that Timo is no stranger to this level, since she was world silver medallist in 2019 and third at the European championships, but it was in the higher weight category. Now at -63kg, it is therefore already a major title, which bodes well for her future. The silver medal went to Lucy Renshall (GBR).
Manon Deketer (FRA) takes the ninth podium place of the day for the host country, with bronze this time, while Angelika Szymanska (POL) takes the second bronze medal.