Judo showed its universality on day one of The Hague Grand Prix as the five titles at stake were won by different countries as Japan, Mongolia, Belgium, Ukraine and Georgia heard their national anthems at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark.
The hosts’ enthusiasm was not dampened by the fact that they were not represented in the final block as they supported all the athletes who in turn showed the Netherlands and the world their skills at the final Grand Prix of the season. The opening day featured the women’s -48kg, -52kg and -57kg categories along with the men’s -60kg and -66kg categories
Japan have shuffled their squad to give some fringe players a run out and were still able to finish day one with the top position on the medal table as they achieved a haul of one gold, one silver and two bronze ahead of Mongolia who won one gold and one bronze medal.
The Netherlands will look to Abu Dhabi Grand Slam gold medallist Juul FRANSSEN (-63kg), Hohhot Grand Prix winner Sanne VAN DIJKE (-70kg) and poster boy Frank DE WIT (-81kg) on Saturday which will also showcase Iran’s world champion world champion Saeid MOLLAEI (-81kg) and Georgia’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam gold medallist Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (-73kg).
Sheldon Franco-Rooks' Technical Analysis
IJF Commentator Sheldon Franco-Rooks reflected on the opening day of competition at The Hague Grand Prix 2018.
With the Osaka Grand Slam less than a week away the major Japanese players are at home making their final preparations for what promises to be one of the highlights of the year. Nevertheless, there is a Japanese contingent taking part in The Hague and enjoying a good degree of success. Four of the five Japanese athletes competing on the opening day managed to find the podium including OTSUJI Terumi who took gold in the -57kg category in her first ever IJF Grand Prix.
China may also feel pleased at the silver medal performances of LU Tongjuan in the -57kg and XIONG Yao in the -48kg category. But it was world number two Vazaha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO) who confirmed his preparedness for Osaka with a convincing and timely win in the -66kg category.
There is still plenty to look forward to over the next two days, including the mouth-watering prospect of a head-to-head of the world number one, newly crowned world champion Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) and world number two Alexander KUKOLJ (SRB) in the -90kg category. It would not be a genuine test in this weight without a Georgian and former world champiom at -81kgs Avtandil TCHIRIKISHVILI (GEO) will be looking to show that he is a good fit for this weight. Oh, and did I mention that the Japanese had a team here? Look out for newcomer MAEDA Kazuya.
Sheldon Franco-Rooks, who was one of the founding members of the IJF live stream, has been a mainstay since the birth of the IJF World Judo Tour in 2009 and has commentated on hundreds of IJF events. Franco-Rooks also commentates for the EJU and has worked at three Olympic Games.