The Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam 2024, the final grand slam and the penultimate IJF World Judo Tour event of the qualification period for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, has come to a close. The five heavyweight categories rounded out the spectacular second edition of the tournament, which for some of the competitors was their last chance to gain vital ranking points in their bid to qualify for the Games. With the athletes raising their game in pursuit of their Olympic dreams, the knowledgeable crowd at the Zhekpe-Zhek Palace were treated to three days of high-quality judo, passionate performances and no shortage of drama.

A total of 450 athletes from 84 countries competed over the long weekend and it was Japan who topped the medal table, thanks to two gold medals on the final day from Aaron Wolf and Tatsuru Saito; they also picked up four bronzes. They were followed closely by Italy, China and then Croatia, each with one gold and one silver, only the number of bronze medals separating them. The medals were shared between 22 countries and a remarkable 35 countries achieved at least one top eight finish. Seven athletes achieved their first ever grand slam medal and for four of them this was also their first ever IJF World Tour medal. For many, this medal helped them move within reach of a coveted Olympic place.

Team Kazakhstan gave their adoring audience plenty of reasons to cheer, finishing a very respectable 5th in the medal table with one gold and three bronze medals. Galiya Tynbaeva produced a stunning display to take the gold at -48kg, while two-time Olympic medallist Yeldos Smetov, Zagreb Grand Prix 2023 medallist Bakhitzhan Abdurakhmanov and world number 13 Abylaikhan Zhubanazar won the bronzes with inspired performances in the -60kg, -73kg and -81kg categories, respectively. There was also a promising fifth place finish for Ekaterina Tokareva. With such strong results it is clear that judo in the country continues to develop at a remarkable pace.

We witnessed dominant, gold-medal winning displays from top seeds Gefen Primo (ISR), Christa Deguchi (CAN), Manuel Lombardo (ITA) and Zhenzhao Ma (CHN). There were also impressive performances from rising stars Tais Pina (POR), Dena Pohl (GER), Ayumi Leiva Sanchez (ESP) and Danil Lavrentev (AIN).

Many of the medals won will have dramatic, though not definitive, implications for some countries’ internal competitions for Olympic selection, including the bronze medal of Andrea Carlino (ITA) at -60kg, the silver won by Matteo Piras (ITA) at -66kg, the gold of Katarina Kristo (CRO) at -63kg, and the bronze medals earned by Katie-Jemima Yeats-Brown and Emma Reid (both GBR) at -70kg and -78kg, respectively.

The host nation ensured that the judo wasn’t confined to the contest arena. Ahead of the competition, in the city of Karagandy, a first-of-its-kind masterclass was held at Jenys Professional Judo Club, led by two-time Olympic champion Shohei Ono and organised by the club’s president and the CEO of Harvest Group, Mr Almaz Alsenov. The free two-day seminar at their recently-opened and purpose-built dojo was attended by hundreds of local judoka who were overjoyed by the chance to learn from one of judo’s all-time greats.

Another Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam ends but many of the world’s top athletes will make one more critical appearance before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games commence in just 75 days’ time. One week from now, a new set of world champions will be crowned, a new chapter of judo history written and the race for Olympic qualification will reach its climactic conclusion.

The all-important Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024, the flagship event of the IJF World Judo Tour, will kick off on Sunday 19th May at the Mubadala Arena in the UAE capital. Don’t miss it! Catch all the action live, follow your favourite athletes, predict the winners and watch highlights and interviews, all at, or through the JudoTV app. It promises to be one of the best ever.

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