The floodlights of the AccorHotels Arena have barely cooled and the 15,000 spectators returned to the four corners of the world, that it is time to draw some first conclusions of this 44th edition of the 'Tournoi de Paris' which became Grand Slam in 2008. Since 1971, this major event of the international calendar punctuates the sporting seasons and offers the opportunity to get a good idea of the forces involved during a season that will see the Olympic qualifications begin in May 2018 during the Chinese Grand Prix.
399 athletes from 71 countries competed during the two-day-event to award a total of 56 medals including 14 gold. At the end, Japan finished at the top of the medal table, with 5 titles, ahead of South Korea, second, and France, third, with two titles each, the ranking being based only on the difference of silver medals. At the end, 17 countries won a medal.
Japan once again topped the medal ranking, thanks to the four titles in men, although the men's team did not align any world or Olympic medalist, and the gold medal of its new prodigy Abe Uta, in women. In the end, Japan harvested 12 medals, equitably divided between men and women.
The Paris Grand Slam, although placed at the beginning of the season and outside the Olympic qualification period, continues to attract the gratin of the judo world. Despite the absence of some great nations like Russia, which has skipped the event, 9 world number ones were present in the French capital and have all had different destinies: KIM Minjeong (KOR) and Michael KORREL (NED) won gold, ARAI Chizuru (JPN), Beka GVINIASHVILI (GEO) and Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) left with the silver medal, Urantsetseg MUNKHBAT (MGL), Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) and Frank DE WIT (NED) finished in third place, while Tal FLICKER (ISR) was not ranked.
The host nation is always closely watched in Paris and the internal and external observers scrutinise every move of the tricolor judoka. In the absence of Teddy Riner, Clarisse Agbegnenou (-63kg) and Audrey Tcheumeo (-78kg) confirmed their role as leaders of French judo by masterfully winning in their respective categories. Beaten at the end of 2017, they won in Paris without giving any chances to their opponents.
Amandine Buchard, who we left with problems to make the weight in -48kg before Rio, has since bet on returning to her best level in the -52kg category. She almost achieved her goal since she reached the final where unfortunately she fell on a rock, the young Japanese Abe Uta.
Behind the ogre Riner who devours all the titles that he finds on his way, it has been some time that the French men's team has been struggling to win. Yet for Stéphane Traineau, former world champion and Olympic medalist, now in charge of high performance at the French Judo Federation, the result is positive: "France gets nine medals in total and three fifth places. This is very good in women and encouraging in men. I am rather satisfied because even if we can always hope for better, the overall behavior of our athletes has been very good. It is difficult for all athletes to be fit at the right time, and some have had complicated days like Cyrille Maret in -100kg, but despite the difficulties, they did everything in front of their public. There are a lot of reasons to hope and we have a beautiful youth that grows, full of determination, commitment and trust. We are slowly building a new generation of French champions."
In this regard, the Paris Grand Slam was an edition for young people, since in addition to Abe Uta, another first year junior, Daria Bilodid (UKR), won in the -48kg. The two champions impressed all the observers. Without fear and, so to speak, without reproach, they have imposed themselves as the boss of their category. A little more experienced, Christa DEGUCHI (CAN), formerly Japanese, made a big impression on the tatamis of Bercy now competing for Canada in -57kg.
Above: Gevrise Emane during the standing ovation of the Parisian public
It will also be remembered that in 2018, Sally Conway (GBR), who ruined Gevrise Emane's Olympic title dreams during the Rio Games, was on top in Paris. The 31-year-old, now seems to approach competitions with a state of mind completely relaxed and obviously it does her very good.
About Gevrise, triple world champion and Olympic medalist (London 2012), the public gave her a standing ovation before the start of the final block on Sunday, while she has recently announced her sporting retreat. Very moved, even on the verge of tears, the champion dedicated her incredible career to all judo teachers, her club coaches and coaches of the French team and she stressed the importance of working hard to achieve your objectives. She finally asked everyone to continue believing in their dreams. The day before, the French Judo Federation also paid tribute to two other national athletes who decided to retire: Alain Schmitt and Loïc Korval, both world medallists.
In less than two weeks many of the athletes present this weekend in Paris will participate again in the Düsseldorf Grand Slam. Known as one of the first Grand Prix of the season, Düsseldorf has now been promoted to the rank of Grand Slam. Attributing 1000 points to the winners, it is already attracting a lot of people since today 531 athletes from 71 countries are already registered. Stay tuned from February 23-25 on the right bank of the Rhine, to know more about the World Judo Tour.