Goodbyes can be hard. After two days of exhilarating action in Baku, the IJF Grand Slam is drawing to a close in the Azeri capital. The third and final day, however, has plenty to offer with -78 kg and +78 kg weight categories for the women and -90 kg, -100 kg and +100 kg among the men.

-78kg: All Four Steenhuis? 

Having already opened her account for the year with a bronze in Paris, Guusje Steenhuis (NED) hopes for an upgrade to cap February. She won three consecutive golds in Baku from 2015 and has three world medals to her name, including a bronze in Doha last year. Starting as the top seed, her main challengers will be Yelyzaveta Lytvynenko (UKR) and Anna Monta Olek (GER). Slovenian Metka Lobnik, ranked 19th in the world, will target more points to climb up the rankings with Paris 2024 around the corner. Will Steenhuis find her fourth gold or is there a surprise waiting for us? Tune into to find out.

+78kg: Dicko Riding the Success Wave

Home comforts or not, Romane Dicko (FRA) is a pleasure to watch. Giving her fans plenty of reasons to cheer with a gold in Paris, the Olympic bronze medallist arrives in Baku hoping for more of the same. On paper, the world number one and first seed should end up on top. Her closest challenger in terms of world ranking is Milica Zabic (SRB), ranked thirteenth in the world. However, the Serbian knows a thing or two about winning in Baku, having claimed the title in 2022. It will also be interesting to see if third seed Kamila Berlikash (KAZ), ranked 15th in the world, and world number 17 Marit Kamps (NED) can secure crucial points for the Summer Olympics.    

-90kg: Mighty Toth Chasing Second Grand Slam Gold

Krisztian Toth (HUN) has a resume that every athlete dreams of. Having medalled at every level possible, including the Olympic Games, there is no doubt that the top seed in Baku is among the best in business. However, we don’t have to tell you how unpredictable judo can be. After all these years, the two-time world medallist has only one grand slam gold from 10 years ago. Will the 10th anniversary of the event in Baku finally change that? Eljan Hajiyev (AZE) would probably disagree. Fresh from a silver medal in Paris, the local hero will look for the passionate home crowd to help him climb up the ladder. The likes of former world champion Noel van 't End (NED) and the Cuban Iván Felipe Silva Morales are likely to be in the mix ensuring that we are in for a treat.

-100kg: Can Sulamanidze Defend his Crown?

Entering the tatami as the reigning champion is always a great feeling. The opponents will be wary; add to that the fact that he is the top seed and the world number one. Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO) is the man we are talking about and he, more than anyone, will agree that defending the title comes with its own pressure. The second seed Zelym Kotsoiev (AZE), also the world number two, will look to fly the hosts’ flag high. Joining them is a Baku specialist in Michael Korrel (NED). The world and European medallist will be eyeing a hat-trick of golds at the venue. The Canadian duo of Kyle Reyes and Shady El Nahas and Olympic and world medallist Peter Paltchik (ISR) are also among those capable of upsetting the top order, adding to a stellar line-up. 

+100kg: Focus on Tushishvili and Silva 

The legendary Teddy Riner (FRA) was the undisputed star in Paris a few weeks ago, certainly among the men’s categories. With him giving this event a miss, the spotlight falls on Guram Tushishvili (GEO). It has been six years since the former world and European champion stood on top of the podium at the Baku Grand Slam. While he came close with a silver last year, the Olympic medallist from Tokyo will be determined to return to the top. Standing in his way will be the veteran Rafael Silva (BRA). The 36-year-old heavyweight has been a constant presence in the sport with two Olympic and four world medals and a host of other laurels. With a world ranking of 10, he is well within the cut off for Paris 2024 and will be seeking more points. With two grand slam golds to his name last year, including one gold, world number 14 Jelle Snippe (NED) will also be eyeing the Paris ticket as he takes to the tatami.

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