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More than 400 athletes at the kickoff in Budapest
23 Oct 2020 09:45
The Grand Slam in Budapest did have a lot of cancellations and the withdrawal of the Italian team was simply painful. However there are still a couple of interesting contests to look forward to. Also the Hungarian team will showcase their best athletes. Once the contest sheets began to form at the draw, it became clear that there will, as always, be some big clashes.
With 8 months worth of expectation, anticipation and hope built on top of a foundation of elite judo, Grand Slam Hungary is going to deliver what many judo fans wish for: Judo is back, but not yet available for everyone.
From the U73kg second round battle between Kosovo’s Akil Gjakova and former Olympic Champion Shavdatuashvili (GEO) as well as Rustam Orujov (AZE), to the presence of current Olympic champions, such as Pareto (ARG) and Trstenjak (SLO), who, for the first time in judo’s history carry their Olympic titles into a 5th year, without being contested, this can only be a must-see event. Pareto is back, fresh off the Covid front lines, where she serves the medical profession with the same grace and warmth she brings to judo.
At U90kg the home favourite Krisztian Toth will be looking to to get past world champion Avtandili Tchrikishvili (GEO) to secure a place in the semi-final against Spain’s powerhouse and world number 1, Nikoloz Sherazadishvili, the winner of the Grand Slam in Paris.
At U48kg we see a huge gap left by the double world champion Bilodid, where, for Hungary at least, she goes up to sprinkle some spice on the U52kg category. Krasniqi (KOS) has Boukli of France in her pool though. Boukli is not highly-ranked (No. 19) but she is a rising start to watch and could give Krasniqi a hard time if they should meet in the semifinal. Olympic Champion Paula Pareto is also competing. She hasn't done so well lately but could be a dark horse.
The thought of a final between Bilodid (UKR) and Buchard (FRA) is tantalising and, looking at the draw, is a realistic prediction. Buchard (FRA) is in Pool A and Bilodid (UKR) is in Pool C. This means they are likely to meet in the final. They've never fought before, of course, because they are from different categories. So, it will be a super interesting match-up. Buchard probably has the advantage because -52kg is her weight class, while Bilodid normally fights at -48kg. Also, Buchard is very good at newaza so Bilodid will not be able to catch her on the ground so easily. Buchard's main throw, the side-takedown, could also prove to be effective against the lanky Bilodid.
The two top favorites U57kg are Klimkait (CAN) in Pool A and Gjakova (KOS) in Pool C. Although Klimkait is ranked higher, it's Gjakova that has the advantage. She's fought and beaten Klimkait three times, most recently at the Paris Grand Slam earlier this year. Monteiro (POR), although not ranked that highly, is always an exciting player to watch and could be a dark horse.
The top 3 players U60kg Nagayama (JPN), Takato (JPN) and Smetov (KAZ) are not in Budapest. But world-ranked No. 4 Lutfillaev (UZB) is and he is the top prospect there although Smetov's compatriot Kyrgyzbayev, Russia's Mshvidobadze and Brazil's Takabatake could stand in his way for the gold. Lutfillaev has lost to all three before but he has beaten them more times than he has lost. He is the favorite to win this weight class.
The top three men U66kg Lombardo (ITA), Maruyama (JPN) and Abe (JPN) are not competing. Japan didn't send a team and the Italian team was not allowed to compete after four team members tested positive for Covid-19 in Budapest. Shikhalizada (AZE), Flicker (ISR), and Gomboc (SLO) are the exciting players to watch. All three are ranked pretty close to each other (16, 14 and 15, respectively). His compatriot Safarov is ranked lower at No. 27, but he is a dark horse.
With the draw complete and the flurry of opponent analysis, weight checks and Covid protocols in full swing, there is a buzz and a building of hope that our future will begin to look more normal after Budapest.
Watch all athletes of the Grand Slam in Budapest and their profiles.
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Kaylie Nuijten (NED)