With three medals, including a gold for Diyora Keldiyorova in the women’s -52 kg category, the Uzbeks topped the medal table on day one. Spain and Canada occupied the second and third spot, respectively, while the breakout star was Sweden’s Tara Babulfath. All that changed on day two.

The fan’s favourite story of the day had to be that of Hidayat Heydarov in the men’s -73 kg categroy. The three-time world medallist from Azerbaijan now has four gold medals at his home grand slam, including three back-to-back from 2022. If the number one seeding and world ranking was not an indication already, today’s performance certainly places him as a top contender for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games title later this year.

The -81kg final

Everyone loves an underdog story and following in Babulfath’s footsteps today was the sensational Lubjana Piovesana (AUT), who got the better of the experienced Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (CAN) for a gold medal in her first-ever grand slam final.

Lubjana Piovesana (AUT), winner of the -63kg, signs the 'I Promise' pledge

Away from the tatami, there was a lot going on around the arena, including the appearance of mascots for the children spectating. One of them joined in with the ‘I Promise’ campaign, making athletes smile in the warm-up room while they were signing pledges. These pledges form just a small part of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation’s strategy to tackle bullying. Many of the medallists from today joined in, including Piovesana, newly crowned -63 kg champion.

The day closed with Azerbaijan at the top of the medal table but it’s not yet done and dusted as day 3 looms. We open the doors again for a 10:30 am start on Sunday morning.

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