The month of April promises to be rather quiet for the World Judo Tour, since the next event of the world circuit will take place from 3rd to 5th May in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It will be the first grand slam in the history of the country, having successfully organised a first grand prix in 2023. If the WJT takes a break but this will not really be the case for the athletes who will participate in their respective continental championships.

Now that the Antalya Grand Slam 2024 has ended, it is time to take stock of this event which allowed us to see the qualification for the current Olympic Games a little more clearly.

Antalya was marked by the return to competition of a high-flying Japanese team, of one of the last appearances before the Olympic rendezvous. The Japanese squad will be present at other upcoming events but athletes like the Abe siblings or Saito will undoubtedly now focus on their preparation. All observers were impressed by the level of Uta and Hifumi who produced pure and spectacular judo which spoke volumes about their intentions. They are clearly in the race to retain their Olympic titles acquired on the same day three years ago in Tokyo. It was already historic, it could be even more so in Paris. The other athletes are warned, Abe and Abe are ready to win again!

With five gold medals obtained in Antalya, Japan is already clearly positioned as a provider of titles in Paris. Behind, France put in a good performance, moving up to second place thanks to the titles of Malonga, Tolofua and Riner on the last day of competition. This beautiful group shot demonstrates the power of France in the heaviest categories. For Madeleine Malonga it was a liberation, while in the race with Audrey Tcheumeo for the Olympic selection. For Julia Tolofua it was the confirmation of her great potential while it is her teammate and world number one, Romane Dicko, who will participate in Paris. Finally, for Teddy Riner, it was the opportunity to measure himself against judoka who increasingly take to the tatami thinking that he can be beaten. In Antalya we saw a Riner on the verge of regaining his legendary speed but one also capable of tactical management. In the final, in difficulty against Saito, he found the one and only solution that worked that day, a counter-attack, using an aspect that is not part of his usual range of judo techniques.

In the Olympic race, we have been following the battle between Christa Deguchi and Jessica Klimkait (CAN) with ever greater interest for months. The second was preferred over the first for the Tokyo Games. Deguchi is still in the lead for Paris, but everything is not yet decided. Canada will also have several cards to play this summer and is aiming at a prolific edition in terms of medals. To be continued…

In Türkiye, we could feel that judoka from around the world are totally focused on the two big events to come. The first of these will be the Abu Dhabi World Championships which will take place at the end of May and then it will be the Games. Today there is no more room for improvisation, even if nothing is written, anything can still happen. This correlation between training and competition planning and outcome uncertainty is striking and generates increased interest at each event. We were pleased to discover in Antalya a Jorge Fonseca (POR) who has regained his liveliness and physical impact. He remains one of the most spectacular judoka on the circuit. We appreciated the mastery and technique of the two Japanese judoka Sanshiro Murao and Takanori Nagase, as well as the self-sacrifice of Michaela Polleres (AUT) and Jisu Kim (KOR). Names are starting to come out of the hat, like the Moldovan Adil Osmanov. Will they be some of the surprises that major championships offer?

Antalya was a magnificent competition, just as we like it, with suspense and adrenaline. At the beginning of May we will meet in Tajikistan, then in Kazakhstan before the world championships and then it will be time to make history.

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