The season-launching Paris tournament, one of five annual IJF Grand Slams (Paris, Baku, Yekaterinburg, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo), will see Olympic champions return to action and new names announce themselves on one of the highest stages in the sport when the sport is bathed with the maximum attention of the host country and indeed the world.
A new set of simplified rules have been designed to make the sport easier to understand for non-judoka and the media and to make the sport dynamic. These changes were presented to coaches and referees at the IJF Referee and Coaching Seminar in Baku in January which was streamed live by the IJF on YouTube.
The official draw took place at the AccorHotels Arena on Friday afternoon and was opened by Mr. Marius VIZER, IJF President.
“Dear colleagues, dear guests, dear all members of the judo family, it is great to start the New Year together at the Paris Grand Slam. I congratulate you all for your achievements over the last four years and wish you more success in the next Olympic cycle.
“We are introducing our new rules for the first time at an IJF event in Paris and we hope they will benefit all areas of our sport including media coverage, viewing figures and attendances at live events. The IJF continues to be committed to our many ongoing projects such as Judo for Children, self-defence, Army and Police, and these will all be advanced over the coming years. I wish you all a lot of success in Paris and a nice stay in France.”
Mr. Jean-Luc ROUGE, French Judo Federation President, said: “Dear friends, I welcome you all to Paris, I would like to thank Mr. VIZER for his support and I am pleased to see you all here at the AccorHotels Arena. We will have 11,000 spectators on Saturday and 12,000 on Sunday and look forward to presenting a great event.
With a sense of humor Mr. ROUGE added: “If you have any problems at any time then please don’t hesitate to contact my French Judo Federation colleagues and if everything is going ok then please do contact me.”
Mr. Juan CARLOS BARCOS, IJF Head Refereeing Director, presented the rules changes to the crowd of referees, coaches, delegations and media one final before they are adopted on Saturday.
“Paris is already a very important event in our sport and takes on even greater significance this year as we use the new set of rules. I thank the coaches and National Federation’s for their positive collaboration surrounding the rule changes. I hope to see all coaches continue to demonstrate good behaviour and the values of our sport. I wish you all an excellent competition.”
To conclude the draw a special video was played of astronaut Thomas Pesquet wishing everyone a successful competition from space as he hailed the sport’s influence on his life and career.
Thomas Pesquet is a French aerospace engineer (born 27 February 1978), airline pilot, and European Space Agency astronaut, who is currently present on board of the International Space Station for six months.
After a long training period, Pesquet left earth in the middle of November 2016. Being a black belt judoka, the International Judo Federation has been following him for more than a year. Today, Thomas Pesquet delivered a message from Space to all participants of the Judo Grand Slam Paris 2017 and more generally speaking to all judoka around the world, especially the young generations: “Hello to everyone, this is Thomas Pesquet, on board of the International Space Station. If you are judoka or simply passionate about judo, you know how much practicing our sport, our discipline, is based on essential values. WATCH THE VIDEO BY CLICKING THE IMAGE BELOW.
"Through judo, these values have made me the man I am today. And I do my best to apply these values in my daily life and to transmit them to the youngest generation. Here for example in the International Space Station, to work in extreme conditions, sometimes dangerous. It is good to know what courage and self control are and as we work as a team, respect and friendship are essential values to the crew. In space as on the tatami, judo is more than a sport, it is a school of life I wish you a great tournament in Paris.“
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist JEONG Bokyeong (KOR) competes for the first time in 2017 and will be the favourite in the absence of Olympic champion Paula PARETO (ARG). JEONG, who also took silver at the Tokyo Grand Slam in December, will be joined in action by Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist KONDO Ami (JPN) and former world champion MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg (MGL).
Rio 2016 Olympic champion Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS) makes her first appearance on the IJF World Judo Tour in her newly-won gold backpatch as the Kosovo hero bids to win the Paris Grand Slam for the fourth year in a row. Double world champion and reigning European champion KELMENDI, 25, will be joined in -52kg action by a wealth of talent including three-time world medallist Erika MIRANDA (BRA), Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Natalia KUZIUTINA (RUS) and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Astride GNETO (FRA) who could be a leading threat in her homeland.
Rio 2016 Olympic champion Rafaela SILVA (BRA) returns to IJF action for the first time since becoming one of the greatest success stories of the last Olympiad. The former world champion accomplished what once seemed like an impossible goal in her home city but the carioca has a level of hunger and determination that has fuelled her rise to becoming one of the most memorable champions of Brazil’s first Olympic Games. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Helene RECEVEAUX (FRA), who has never medalled at her home event, has five-time Grand Slam winner YOSHIDA Tsukasa (JPN) for company and London 2012 Olympic bronze medallists Marti MALLOY (USA) and Priscilla GNETO (FRA -52kg).
Rio 2016 Olympic champion Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) and Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) lead the -63kg judoka into action in Paris. World and Olympic champion TRSTENJAK, who took bronze at the Tokyo Grand Slam in December, kept the -63kg Olympic title in Slovenia and will now aim to repeat her 2015 Paris Grand Slam victory with her gold backpatch.
Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist ARAI Chizuru (JPN) may start the weekend as the number one seed but Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA) should be seen as the favourite in the French capital. Former cadet world champion GAHIE, 20, is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from France in many years and has already tasted Grand Prix and Grand Slam gold but is making only her second start at the Paris Grand Slam. World and European bronze medallist Fanny Estelle POSVITE (FRA) will also aim to be France’s best performer in the -70kg category while teenage three-time Grand Slam bronze medallist Elvismar RODRIGUEZ (VEN) will be fighting to win the biggest medal of her thriving career.
Four-time Grand Slam winner Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) is the top seed in Paris but former world champion and two-time Olympic medallist Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) will be the overwhelming favourite at home on Sunday. TCHEUMEO, 26, has won her home Grand Slam twice and will be targeting a hat-trick in 2017 as one of the most decorated judoka in the entire French team. Wales’ first female Olympic judoka Natalie POWELL (GBR), who won bronze here a year ago, has world accolades in her sights and will look to bounce back from a seventh-place finish in Rio with a medal in France.
Rio 2016 Olympic champion Emilie ANDEOL (FRA) is still adjusting to life as an Olympic kingpin after always being a consistent performer without troubling the heavyweight hierarchy on the elite level. Now ANDEOL, a two-time European champion, has a golden backpatch and golden career after an incredible and unexpected run to gold in Brazil which included wins over defending Olympic champion Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) and world champion YU Song (CHN). Paris debutant ASAHINA Sarah (JPN) will be a fighter to watch out for in the women’s heavyweight category having won the Tokyo Grand Slam last time out and the Tokai University member will have her parents among the 11,000-strong crowd.
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallists Diyorbek UROZBOEV (UZB) and TAKATO Naohisa (JPN) will be tipped for glory but 20-year-old Tokyo Grand Slam winner NAGAYAMA Ryuju (JPN) is the one to watch at -60kg on his Paris debut. The Junior World Championships winner will be matched against the best of France and the world with World Judo Masters silver medallist Vincent LIMARE (FRA), European champion Walide KHYAR (FRA), former world number one Orkhan SAFAROV (AZE) and eight-time Grand Slam medallist Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO) among the stars on show in the lightest men’s category.
One more of Japan’s Paris debutants could outshine his contemporaries on day one as Youth Olympic Games winner ABE Hifumi (JPN) has finally been given a chance to perform at one of the sport’s flagship events. The 19-year-old, who is already a three-time Grand Slam winner, needs to perform to the best of his ability to receive the nod for selection to his first World Championships in August. Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist AN Baul (KOR) is one world star who could halt the path of teenage sensation ABE as the South Korean looks to bounce back from a lowly seventh-place finish at December’s Tokyo Grand Slam.
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) is bidding to win the Paris tournament for the first time on his third outing in France. ORUJOV, who took silver at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in his only IJF competition since Rio 2016, starts as the top seed but has World Judo Masters winner HASHIMOTO Shoichi (JPN) for company and the Japanese judoka is unbeaten in his last four competitions. Defending Paris Grand Slam champion AN Changrim (KOR) exited his first Olympics in the third round and restarts his Olympic bid this weekend alongside double Olympic medallist Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO) who is still only 25 and could be on track for one more Olympics.
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Sergiu TOMA (U.A.E) will offer the strongest challenge of his career in Paris having entered the prime of his career. TOMA, 30, won IJF and Olympic honours in 2016, to add to his World Judo Masters and World Championships bronze medals. The United Arab Emirates’ first Olympic judo medallist can expect to be pushed by household names of the division including former world and Masters bronze medallist Victor PENALBER (BRA) and Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist Ivaylo IVANOV (BUL).
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist and former world champion GWAK Donghan (KOR) has the man he stood next to on the Olympic podium, Chinese revelation CHENG Xunzhao (CHN), for company in a compelling -90kg field. Unseeded CHENG produced scalp after scalp against the world’s elite in one of the most stunning performances of the Olympics. CHENG will be feared by everyone in the category in Paris, including GWAK, while Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist Axel CLERGET (FRA) is one course to becoming his country’s number one at this weight if he can outperform Alexandre IDDIR (FRA). Former World Judo Masters winner Beka GVINIASHVILI (GEO) has moved back down to -90kg but another teammate could become an obstacle for him as former world champion Avtandili TCHRIKISHVILI GEO) has elected to move up from -81kg to -90kg.
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Elmar GASIMOV (AZE) is the world number one and top seed and will be looking to control the fate of the category on Sunday. Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Cyrille MARET (FRA) has been unbeatable in his home event in recent years having completed a hat-trick of victories from 2014 – 2016. Tokyo Grand Slam winner Kirill DENISOV (RUS) has not tasted defeat at -100kg since jumping up from -90kg in November and has his toughest assignment yet on Sunday. Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) will hope for a similar transition to DENISOV as the Georgian ace is one more mover and shaker as he has entered the Paris Grand Slam at -100kg.
World Judo Masters winner Daniel NATEA (ROU) has won both of his IJF competitions since his early elimination at the Olympic Games. NATEA won the Zagreb Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam towards the end of 2016 and arrives in Paris as the number one heavyweight seed. Double Olympic bronze medallist Rafael SILVA (BRA) and double World Judo Masters bronze medallist Roy MEYER (NED), three-time Grand Slam medallist Levani MATIASHVILI (GEO) and double world silver medallist SHICHINOHE Ryu (JPN) will all see the absence of all-time great Teddy RINER (FRA) as an opportunity to show that they are the second best heavyweight in the world and could one day score on the French legend.