A new chapter in Azerbaijan’s sporting history begins as for the first time the IBSA Judo Grand Prix is hosted in Baku.
Under the banner of Triumph of the Spirit, 212 athletes from 35 countries are competing for a medal and important points towards qualification for the next Paralympic Games. The first day brought all seven current Paralympic champions to the tatami.
The most dominating athlete for IBSA Judo is undoubtedly Inna CHERNIAK. It took the current Paralympic and double world champion less than two minutes to win all her matches today in the -52kg category. “I feel in very good form. I am happy with the win. Judo is my profession, so each tournament is equally important for me.”
Cherniak trains alongside her twin sister Maryna, who is well-known in the IJF World Judo Tour. “We always train together. We go to the same gym and we have the same coaching staff. My sister is helping me a lot in the trainings. Together we are stronger.”
It shows how well Paralympic and Olympic judo go together and can be used as a metaphor for the special cooperation between IJF and IBSA.
Last year at the 2018 Judo Worlds in Baku, Azerbaijan, the IJF renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with IBSA. The continuous aim of this collaboration between both organizations is to work together on the development of universal judo.
Last year in Baku, Mr. Vizer commented: “Both our organizations share the same values and it is important to continue to support IBSA in this long-term ongoing relationship because they are member of the big judo family.”
Part of this agreement is connecting the IBSA Grand Prix to the IJF Grand Slam in Baku. It’s one of the reasons why IJF President Mr. Vizer stayed during the first day of the tournament. At the opening ceremony, Mr. Vizer gave his appreciation to the National Paralympic Committee for organizing this event. He commented that all people involved in the Paralympic Games are real heroes and whished everybody good luck for the competition. He showed his appreciation by giving a special recognition award to President of the Azerbaijan National Paralympic Committee Mr. Ilgar Rahimov.
Mr. Vizer himself was presented the Paralympic Order for his role in developing judo.
After the opening ceremony the medal matches took place. There was excitement from the start as 18-year old Shahana HAJIYEVA shocked Paralympic Champion LI Liquin in the -48kg category by throwing her with an incredible de ashi barai. It shows that Paralympic judo is a fast-developing sport in Azerbaijan.
Alongside Hajiyeva, Sevda VALIYEVA and Vugar SHIRINLI also claimed the gold for Azerbaijan and topped the medal table at the end of day one. World Champion Feruz SAYIDOV and his teammate Davurkhon KAROMATOV collected gold medals for Uzbekistan. Ukraine and Georgia both collected one gold medal. Inna Cherniak was the only Paralympic Champion today to take the gold, not only showing the depth of IBSA judo, but also of the absolute dominance of Cherniak.
She is an ambassador for the sport and happy with the collaboration between IBSA and IJF: “Olympic judo is still more popular but Paralympic judo is getting more and more attention. It will develop step by step,” ends Cherniak.