“This competition is a bit strange. A few countries came with top athletes while others came to try to earn points for those athletes whom are still just outside of qualification. There is and always must be different year planning from country to country, some preparing the selections at this time and others waiting until the end of the qualification period. Some want to have their Olympic team assembled and notified by the end of December, to spend the majority of next year preparing for peak performance at the Games. For some Abu Dhabi is the last chance to be the best qualified in their country.
Something I have been surprised by is the rate of growth of the Chinese women’s team. Now with new coaches from Eastern Europe, we see them coming back to form with aggression, a good feeling and a strong will. It feels like a recovery period for them. Their judo is looking positive and the change is visible. The team took a bronze medal on day 1 and now have an athlete in the -63 kg final too. This is real progress.
There is more progress to be found here in the United Arab Emirates with the host nation performinge better on home soil than they have at other events this cycle. There is clearly investment in coaching and in development and now they are beginning to bare the fruit of that. Being at home provides a benefit and it is one they are capitalising on. Bayanmukh’s medal yesterday has been added to today by Tatalashvili, reaching this day two grand slam final block.
Speaking about a few individuals, I really noticed Akil Gjakova (KOS) today. This is a recovered level which is good to see. He has had some good results in the past but has not been consistent and it would be a great reward for the Kosovan team to see all their work pay off with him. We know about the country’s success with the women but Gjakova is pushing the envelope for the men and might just be the ignition needed, for the younger ones to follow him even more successfully.
In the -73 kg category, Makhmadbekov (AIN) and Mammadaliyev had the most intense, incredible quarter-final. They attacked and counter-attacked from every position. It was a perfect display of intention, with ippon as their goal. It went into golden score and the energy exerted even in extra time was impressive, to say the least. It almost doesn’t matter who won because with attitude as the focus and judo skill, they both won. Both men left the tatami exhausted from a great fight. One went on to win his next contest, almost by luck as he still hadn’t found his full recovery. The winner went on to lose his semi-final against the very physical Ahadov (UZB), no surprise; he really gave all he had and I commend it.
At -81 kg the Italian Giacomo Gamba brought fantastic, dynamic judo and had the ability to win well but was unfortunately and deservedly disqualified for a head-dive against De Wit and then couldn’t settle enough to win in the repechage. He has real ability but must control his technical choices so as not to break the rules in the process of applying potentially masterful techniques.
At -63 kg the Canadian is not bringing the most exciting judo but she’s a worker who keeps going, behaves well, stays consistent and honest and I can only applaud her consistency. She’s an Olympic medallist for a reason. I think she is a great role model for the younger ones, to see how she approaches her mental preparation. Her calmness is very positive.
Sweden’s Eriksson and Taimazova (AIN) were perhaps a surprise pair of finalists at -70 kg. Taimazova has the experience but with athletes such as Polleres in the group, we could have been forgiven for expecting a different outcome. However, both have stepped up a notch and brought good judo forward. They deserved their medals today.”
A dynamic day of judo has come to end, showcasing some new judoka on the IJF rostrum but also highlighting the recovery of others, seeing medal-winners of the past resurface, finding their top level again.
Day 3 begins at 10am local time and can be followed on JudoTV.com.