Day two of the competition at the Upper Austria Grand Prix 2024 has come to a close with the crowning of 16 more medallists, 6 of whom stood on a grand prix podium for the first time. Japan leads the medal standings currently with two golds, followed closely by the Netherlands and Italy, but that could all change with 5 more categories still to take to the tatami on day three. After a tough day for the top seeds, we look ahead to what is sure to be an explosive final day of competition at the Tips Arena in Linz, and pick out some of the big names to look out for.

-90kg: Can Toth Do the Double?

The top seed at -90kg is Hungarian legend Kristian Toth, who will be hoping for a repeat of his gold medal winning performance from last year’s event. He faces a tough first contest against either home favourite Thomas Scharfetter, who joined him on the Austrian podium last year, or Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2021 winner Mansur Lorsanov (AIN). Joining them in the same pool, as 8th seed, is Sami Chouchi (BEL) who is making steady progress in the weight category since moving up from -81kg at the beginning of 2023. World Judo Tour veteran Ivan Felipe Silva Morales (CUB) is seeded 2nd, while Rafael Macedo (BRA) follows him as the number three seed. Tristani Mosakhlishvili (ESP) took gold at the Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam 2023 and will be looking to add a first grand prix medal to his tally.

Toth (HUN) won gold in Linz in 2023.

Beyond the seeded players, 2015 world champion Donghan Gwak (KOR) will be eager to take his first World Tour medal in four years; he came close with a 5th place finish at the Grand Prix Portugal in January. Roland Goz (HUN) and Giorgi Jabniashvili (GEO) won their first World Tour medals in 2023 and will be hoping to double their tally in Linz.

Gwak (KOR) won Paris in 2019.

-78kg: Every Contest Counts for Ukrainian Youngsters

Ukraine has a good problem at -78kg. Yelyzaveta Lytvynenko and Yuliia Kurchenko are both just 20 years of age and both are in direct qualification spots for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, only five places apart. The former is already a world bronze medallist while the latter has three World Tour medals to her name, most recently a silver medal at the Baku Grand Slam 2024. Only one can go to Paris and as 2nd and 4th seeds, there is potential for them to meet in a very interesting final indeed.

Yuliia Kurchenko (UKR).

Standing in their way will be the Dutch powerhouse and number one seed Guusje Steenhuis, coming off the back of grand slam gold in Baku just a few weeks ago, along with 3rd seed Anna Monta Olek (GER), also on that podium in Baku. 6th seed Natalie Powell can never be ruled out while surprise Grand Prix Portugal 2023 winner Karol Gimenes (BRA) and Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam 2023 winner Mao Izumi are more than capable of spoiling the party for the seeded players.

-100kg: Fara and Boehler Hoping to Bring Home the Goods

The home crowd will be eagerly awaiting the first rounds of the -100kg category, as the number one seed is their very own human highlight reel and all-round entertainer Aaron Fara (AUT). The world number 15 will be looking to add to his growing medal collection and give the audience plenty of spectacular throws to cheer for. The Brazilian duo of Leonardo Goncalves and Rafael Buzacarini are seeded 2nd and 3rd, respectively, and are engaged in a very tight battle for Olympic qualification for their country. Jorge Fonseca (POR), another highlight reel favourite, is seeded 4th and will be looking to lock-in his qualification for the Olympics with a good result at the Tips Arena.

Everyone loves to see the best of Fara (AUT).

Despite the pedigree of the seeded players, the category is likely to be as unpredictable as ever, with plenty of potential challengers for the podium places. Kosuke Mashiyama (JPN) is a Tokyo Grand Slam winner from 2022 at -90kg, the hosts’ Laurin Boehler (AUT) has won two European Open gold medals back-to-back leading up to this event, and Anton Savytskiy (UKR) has been growing in confidence and ability recently, picking up a 5th place at the Paris Grand Slam a month ago.

+78 An Open Field Behind Beatriz Souza

The category is, on the whole, a very open field with a mix of those already qualified for the Olympic Games in Paris and some newcomers, some good juniors and a large number of outsiders not yet near the qualification line. Beatriz Souza (BRA) is the only world top ten entry and so she sits confidently at the top of the draw and should win the event.

A happy Beatriz Souza in Baku, 2023.

There are some interesting contests ahead though in the women’s heavyweight category. We could watch the two German entries, Lucht (30th on the Olympic ranking list) and Bouizgarne (40th on the Olympic ranking list). Certainly the latter is chasing but with both still seeking qualification, a medal for either would be a massive step in the right direction.

Lucht (GER) in the Upper Austria final block in 2023.

Bouizgarne would need to reach the final just as she did in Dushanbe last year. She placed 7th in Tashkent a week ago and so anything is possible. Renee Lucht was placed 5th in Baku only weeks ago too and so the form is similar, the results too. It may come down to their opposition in the early rounds and also their personal discipline. Lucht will face Sutalo (CRO) in round one, down at 48th in the world and with little to reference on the WJT since her 2018 bronze in Agadir. Bouigarne, however, will face 4-time Olympic medallist Idalys Ortiz. Ortiz has not been on her best form but she has made into Olympic qualification for an incredible 5th time and she will do whatever it takes to stay there; she knows better than anyone how to do that!

Idalys Ortiz (CUB) winning her 4th consecutive Olympic medal.

Twenty-one countries have a representative in the group and that is evidence of healthy global diversity through the sport, when even at the sharp ends of the weight divisions, away from the most well populated categories, there is rivalry spanning continents and development to be found everywhere. Even tiny island communities are involved with Trinidad and Tobago being represented by Tokyo 2021 competitor Gabriella Wood. Tahani Alqatani competes for Saudi Arabia and is leading the way in terms of inspiring women in her home country to take part. That fits perfectly with the International Women’s Day theme for 2024, ‘Inspire Inclusion.’

+100 Granda, Tushishvili or Krpalek?

Andy Granda of Cuba sits at the top of the sheet, ranked 4th in the world and with a red back patch only recently removed after he won in Tashkent in 2022. Since then we have seen a gradual decrease in the frequency of his rostrum appearances but he’s never to be discounted. He is the current Pan American Games champion and he fully intends to assert his rank even against 8th seed, Dutchman Jur Spijkers. Spijkers may have fewer overall points but he has more recent medals on the Tour and at 26 he has a great deal of throwing power that he isn’t afraid to use even against the Cuban veteran.

Jur Spijkers (NED) in Baku in February 2024.

Fifth place in Upper Austria last year, at the Europeans also last year and in Tashkent last week, his seeding follows suit, but 22 year old Hungarian Richard Sipocz is hunting for better and could do some serious damage in pool B while the favourite of many a judo fan around the world, Guram Tushishvili (GEO) sits at the top of the second half of the draw. In his quarter, Gamzatkhanov (AZE) and Terhec (FRA) will want to take his place in the semi-final, the Azeri taking silver in his home event just a few weeks ago, putting him in touching distance of qualification, although still behind his teammate Kokauri, not present in Linz.

Guram Tushishvili (GEO) in Baku, 2023.

The biggest name of them all though is Lukas Krpalek (CZE), seeded 3rd. Two Olympic gold medals from two different categories and the same for the world and continental championships, he’s a true giant of the sport. He can throw, win on the ground and can strategise and not a single judoka in the category will have wanted to face him in the preliminary rounds in Linz.

The double Olympic champion won gold in Austria in 2023.

Whether it’s Granda, Tushishvili, Krpalek or any other who leaves with the gold on day 3, it will be a valuable victory and could change the course of this Olympic cycle for many.

The final day of competition at the Tips Arena in Linz starts at 10:30 local time on Sunday 9th March 2024. Catch all the action as it happens, join in with the prediction league and watch highlights, interviews and analysis, all at

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