The 2021 edition of the Paris Grand Slam ended this Sunday 17th October with the last seven categories of the draw. This restart of competitions in Paris after the shutdown due to Covid and with it being only a few short months after the Tokyo Olympic Games, was very interesting in more ways than one.

First of all, it was a magnificent celebration of the fifty-year history of this legendary tournament. Between 1971 and 2021, the heroes of French and world judo were often built in Paris, because winning in France was and still is a necessary step for a successful career. The list of victories at the world championships and the Olympic Games can go on for pages; a title during the Grand Slam in Paris marks the memories of the athletes themselves and of judo fans.

For long minutes, the 8,000 spectators were able to express their joy in front of a parade of world judo legends. There was:

Lucie Decosse (FRA)

Yvonne Boenisch (GER)

Kate Howey (GBR)

Keiji Suzuki (JPN)

Masahi Ebinuma (JPN)

Vitaly Makarov (RUS)

Céline Lebrun (FRA)

Jean-Luc Rougé (FRA)

Haruki Uemura (JPN)

Yasuhiro Yamashita (JPN)

Udo Quellmalz (GER)

Cathy Fleury (FRA)

Guiseppe Maddaloni (ITA)

Neil Adams (GBR)

Ki-Young Jeon (KOR)

Angelo PARISI (FRA)

Emilie ANDEOL (FRA)

Madeleine MALONGA (FRA)

Gévrise EMANE (FRA)

Fabien CANU (FRA)

Frédéric DEMONTFAUCON (FRA)

From left to right: Celine Lebrun, Jean-Luc Rougé and Haruki Uemura

Even with such a list, we also remember the ones who couldn't be present.

France Judo, for the delight of the public, then made space for the French National Team who performed the historic feat of winning the first ever mixed team Olympic title in Tokyo during the summer: Amandine BUCHARD, Sarah-Leonie CYSIQUE, Margot PINOT, Madeleine MALONGA, Romane DICKO, Luka MHKEIDZE, Kilian LEBLOUCH, Guillaume CHAINE.

The French Team

Also present were the French Paralympic medallists Sandrine MARTINET and Hellios Latchoumanaia.

If the audience in the French capital is always concise and passionate it is because they love and know judo and enjoy the show produced by athletes coming from all corners of the globe. They also love to celebrate their heroes and have a privileged moment with them. If some of the competitors present today competed during the weekend, like Guillaume Chaine, several others are still recovering from this summer but they all reassured the public that they will soon be back. Amandine Buchard was clear, “We will be here in February for the next Paris Grand Slam!”

-81kg: Sasaki Demonstrates His Talent

One could expect an explosive final between the prodigy Tato Grigalashvili (GEO) and the winner of the Guangzhou Masters in 2018, Takeshi Sasaki (JPN). The Georgian remains in the eyes of many specialists a great champion in the making, capable of attacking in all directions and with spectacular movements.

For the moment, the international results of the world number one are still a little below what could be expected of him. At 21 he is still young and has several years to expand his record. Today he found someone stronger than him with Sasaki who gave Grigalashvili no chance by throwing him twice, the first time with a reverse shoulder movement and the second time with a spectacular hip technique. Grigalashvili could rub his head a bit at the end of the final wondering what happened.

The reigning world champion, Matthias Casse returned to competition in Paris and undoubtedly hoped for better than a fifth place. The two Japanese in the category decided otherwise. For the bronze medal it was Sotaro Fujiwara who won against Casse. In the second match for a bronze medal, it was Bolor-Ochir Gereltuya (MGL) who won against Tizie Gnamien (FRA) after being led by a waza-ari, but then scoring a clear ippon.

Medals, flowers and cheques were presented by Mr Mustapha Berraf IOC Member and President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa and Mr David Inquel, Vice President of France Judo

-70kg: Japan Strikes Again

For Barbara Matic this Paris Grand Slam was an interesting and above all important test. World champion in Budapest in June, the Croatian skipped the Zagreb Grand Prix, in her own country, in order to better prepare for the meeting in Paris. Dressed for the first time on the international circuit in her beautiful red bib, she approached the competition with seriousness and concentration, to reach the final against the Japanese Saki Niizoe.

Barbara Matic said, “I was feeling great but in the final something weird happened. We went into ne-waza, she strangled me and I started to feel dizzy. It is ok now, though, she was stronger today.”

After a rather balanced start to the final, even if Matic showed some small signs of imbalance, it was finally on the ground, once again that Niioze found the solution by pinning Matic already locked in by a potential shime-waza from the Japanese judoka. And that makes six gold medals for Japan already!

After a long golden score and a close match, Yoko Ono won a bronze medal. At the same time, Hilde Jager, fifth in Zagreb a few weeks ago, concluded her weekend with a bronze medal after having defeated Ellen Santana (BRA).

Medals, flowers and cheques were presented by Mr Jean Luc Rougé, General Secretary of the International Judo Federation and Mr Anthony Le Daniel, Vice President of France Judo

-90kg: Nagasawa too Strong for the Others

Khusen Khalmurzaev (RUS) does not have the same prize list as his illustrious twin brother Khasan, who was Olympic champion in Rio in 2016, but still the Russian is a regular on the international circuit. This time he reached the final against the Japanese Kenta Nagasawa, who once again won the gold medal. With already seven gold medals under the Japanese flag, Keiji Suzuki, who recently replaced Kosei Inoue as the head coach for men, can be satisfied. The mother country of judo is already preparing the new Olympic cycle and even if they did not come to Paris with their number ones, they are proving to be on top.

Vitaly Makarov, Khalmurzaev's coach said: “We knew the Japanese opponent would wait and counter-attack and that happened. Khalmurzaev started his attack; it was a good one but Nagasawa stopped it well and managed to return the situation.”

The two bronze medals went to Luka Maisuradze (GEO) and Anri Egutidze (POR).

Medals, flowers and cheques were presented by Mr Andrey Kryukov, General Secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Kazakhstan and Ms Ericka Merion, Board Member of France Judo

-78kg: Babintseva Against All Odds

We will remember that after an impressive harvest of gold medals by the Japanese team, Aleksandra Babintseva (RUS) won the title against Rika Takayama (JPN). This doesn't diminish at all the performance of the Nippon team, but it highlights that of Babintseva who had a perfect day today in Paris.

Babintseva said, “It was a tactical contest. The key was the kumi-kata but I was well prepared for that. To win in Paris against a Japanese opponent, with a massive ippon, is so far the best achievement of my career."

For the bronze medal, Luise Malzahn of Germany won her twelfth medal at a grand slam, to which should be added 22 medals at grand prix and one world medal. That’s an impressive collection. The second bronze medal went to Inbar Lanir of Israel.

Medals, flowers and cheques were presented by Ms Donia Kaouach, Director General of Leaders for Peace and Mr Mohammed Zouarh, Vice President of France Judo

-100kg: After Zagreb, Adamian Wins in Paris

Asley Gonzales is an old acquaintance of the international judo scene. Olympic silver medallist in London in 2012 and world champion in 2013 in Rio, the Cuban native recently changed nationality to now compete under the Romanian banner. Fifth in Zagreb a few weeks ago, Gonzales went two steps higher this time as he reached the final against Arman Adamian (RUS), who in Zagreb topped the medal podium.

The Russian remained the stronger man of the moment, defeating the Romanian competitor with a superb change of direction and a clear ippon.

Adamian said, "I had to win here because it is the most prestigious tournament in the world. Every judoka dreams of winning here. Plus, the Olympic Games will be held here in 3 years so this is the place to be and win.”

The two bronze medals went to Simeon Catharina (NED) and Onise Saneblidze (GEO).

Medals, flowers and cheques were presented by Mr Obaid Al Anzi, Vice President of the International Judo Federation and President of the Judo Union of Asia and Ms Armelle Juliard-Gendarme, Regional Councillor of Ile de France

+78kg: Hershko Overtakes the French

Raz Hershko (ISR) produced a real performance by defeating Lea Fontaine, much taller and heavier than her, in the final of the women's heavyweight division. In a really tactical match, Hershko followed to the word the advice of her coach and finally took the gold medal after Fontaine was penalised for the third time.

The second reason for Raz Hershko to be happy was that all the other medallists were French. Under such dominance from one country, the results of the Israeli competitor is even more significant.

Raz Hershko said, “She was much taller and heavier than me but you know I chose this category knowing that many judoka will be like this. I fight with my skills and never give up.”

Coralie Hayme (FRA), who won the junior world title a week ago in Olbia, Italy, this time stepped on the podium with a bronze medal, while the second bronze medal went to Julia Tolofua (FRA).

Medals, flowers and cheques were presented by Mr Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko, Vice President of the International Judo Federation and President of the African Judo Union and Mr Bruno Chellaoua, Board Member of France Judo

+100kg: Almost Maret, But in the End it's Tasoev

The French public hoped until the last minute of the Paris Grand Slam 2021 that they would win a gold medal. With thirteen medals the host of the event is number one in terms of medals, but when it comes to gold medals, France is only in 6th position with no gold.

Cyrille Maret, who was coming back to competition after he went up one category to now compete with the heavyweights, scored the first waza-ari with a superb sutemi-waza, quite unusual for heavyweights but then Inal Tasoev (RUS) who was obivsouly surprised by the first attack, started to turn on the power and this was the end of Maret's dream to win a new gold medal in Paris.

The Frenchman has already won three times here and in total has six Paris medals. Thus this is the seventh, an incredible performance, all things considered. Tasoev offered the third gold medal of the day to Russia, who climbed into second place of the overall medal ranking.

Cyrille Maret said, "To me Tasoev is one of the finest judoka in this category because he is strong but also very skillful. I wanted to propose a big fight as a sign of respect for him. I managed to score and I think it was a good final."

Joseph Terhec (FRA) won his first bronze medal in a grand slam, while Jur Spijkers took the second bronze medal of the category.

Medals, flowers and cheques were presented by Mr Rehio Davio, Vice President of the International Judo Federation and President of the Oceanian Judo Union and Mr Philippe BrassacGeneral Director of Crédit Agricole, Partner of the French Judo Federation
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