It is a cheerful and smiling Cathy Fleury that we met at the end of the first day of judo during the Kazan Grand Slam. She explains why.

“The last competition I participated in as a supervisor was the Tel Aviv Grand Slam. It was still the start of the sports season, let's say and what I saw here today was really gratifying. A few months ago we felt that the athletes had not yet returned to their peak form. Everything was more cramped and more complicated. This was normal, to be expected. Everyone was a long time without competition, even though we had already had the Hungarian Grand Slam, but it was in October and the Masters was in January, but was limited to the best in each category.

Suddenly here, in Kazan, I have the impression of finding air again; I'm breathing. The judoka are more liberated and more efficient, especially with their kumi-kata. It's really a good development and it's the result of all the competitions we've had so far.

Today we have seen competitors preparing for the World Championships or the Olympic Games, or both. It is obvious. There really is more engagement.

Throughout the day, I was really struck by the performance of Abe Uta. She is incredible. During the first contest, we felt her a little tense, but she freed herself and there it was beautiful. What this young woman is capable of doing when she is free in her head is simply breathtaking.

I am obviously happy to see the great comeback of Hélène Recevaux (FRA) at the highest level, as well as that of Astride Gneto (FRA). They are not in place for the Games, but they always have this rage to win. It is very moving.

But, I come back to what I was saying. Everything is sharper. There is less hesitation. The standing to ground connections are safe and effective and despite all the context of which we are all victims, we can say that international judo has found the path to normality. We felt during the previous competitions that there was apprehension and we observed a lot of uninteresting golden scores. Today I saw attacks in the attack, anticipation. That's what I like and it bodes well for a great show at the World Championships and at the Games. Frankly, I'm happy."

How could we not be? Like Cathy Fleury, judo fans were spoiled on the occasion of this first day of judo. It only remains to wait for the second.

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