Author: Mark Pickering, on 22. Feb 2018

Olympic champions to return at Germany’s inaugural Grand Slam

The IJF World Judo Tour has settled in Germany this week for the first edition of the Düsseldorf Grand Slam which will captivate more fans than ever at the ISS Dome from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 February.

Düsseldorf has hosted a Grand Prix from 2010 to 2017 and Germany’s leg of the IJF World Judo Tour has been upgraded in 2018 with Grand Slam status and will now emanate from the 14,000-seater stadium in addition to being broadcast live in the host country on television channel Sport1.

Following the season-opening Tunis Grand Prix and the Paris Grand Slam just a fortnight ago, the stars of the sport have arrived in the popular location of Düsseldorf in great numbers and with many decorated champions. The new Grand Slam has a bumper entry of 446 judoka and 65 nations who are ready to lock horns this weekend.


Among the notable entries, fans will be thrilled to see Japan’s Olympic champion BAKER Mashu back in action for the first time since Rio 2016 when he graces the first edition of the Düsseldorf Grand Slam on Sunday.

BAKER, 23, had surgery for a long-standing shoulder injury after winning gold at his first Olympics and his recuperation took longer than first anticipated. The Tokai University judoka became an overnight superstar in Japan with his victory in Brazil and will wear his gold backpatch for the first time in a competition this weekend.

The gold colour is reserved only for current Olympic champions which means that his teammate ONO Shohei (JPN) can also be identified by the same colour in Germany. ONO, 26, of Tenri University, pulled out of his comeback event, the Tokyo Grand Slam, in December through injury after winning one contest and should offer a far different performance in a country which has always been a rich medal source for him.


World champion HASHIMOTO Soichi (JPN) was also due to compete here but was withdrawn by his Federation while heavyweight star and Openweight world champion ASAHINA Sarah (JPN) and -52kg world champion SHISHIME Ai (JPN) are both part of a 19-strong Japanese delegation and can be spotted from afar in their red backpatches.

Olympic champion Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO), world champion Mayra AGUIAR (BRA), Olympic and world silver medallist Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) and World Judo Masters winner Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) are among the champions looking to make their mark at the new major on the IJF World Judo Tour.


On Thursday afternoon the draw took place at the ISS Dome and Juan CARLOS BARCOS, IJF Head Referee Director, made the opening address on behalf the IJF.

“Good afternoon everyone, on behalf of the IJF President Marius VIZER, I wish you all a warm welcome to the first edition of this Grand Slam which I am sure will be a fantastic event. We have a great sports arena for this new competition, everyone is very excited and I wish you all the best here in Düsseldorf.”

Peter FRESE, German Judo Federation President, said: “Dear IJF Executive Committee, dear ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the German Judo Federation, I wish you a warm welcome to this new Grand Slam. I hope you enjoy the competition, I hope we see fantastic judo and once again welcome to Düsseldorf.”

Judo fans can go behind the scenes today and follow the preparations of Germany’s European Games winner Martyna TRAJDOS who is sharing her day with the world with an Instagram Takeover on the IJF account. TRAJDOS will compete on Saturday in the -63kg category and is the first athlete to exclusively host an IJF Takeover through Instagram's hugely popular Story mode.


German legends as well as current stars have been active in the build-up to#JudoDüsseldorf2018as Beijing 2008 Olympic champion and London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Ole BISCHOF has offered his predictions of the 14 gold medal winners for this weekend. BISCHOF carved his name into every record book in his country during his glittering career and the 2005 European champion has singled out his favourites for gold along with IJF Commentator Sheldon FRANCO-ROOKS who also made his selections before Thursday’s draw.





Paris Grand Slam gold medallist Daria BILODID (UKR) has won the first two IJF events of the season and is looking for a hat-trick when she competes in Düsseldorf for the first time. The 17-year-old prodigy, who won the European Championships last year in only her second senior competition, won all four of her contests in Paris by ippon including scalps over world champion TONAKI Funa (JPN) and London 2012 Olympic champion Sarah MENEZES (BRA). Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Maryna CHERNIAK (UKR) has not left an IJF event empty-handed in 2018 as half of the categories four medals could again be won by the Ukraine on day one. Five-time Grand Slam medallist Milica NIKOLIC (SRB) and seven-time Grand Slam medallist CSERNOVICZKI Eva (HUN) are yet to triumph at one of the IJF’s six majors and will be hard pressed to change that in Germany.


World champion SHISHIME Ai (JPN) took bronze at the Tokyo Grand Slam in December and starts her year with the aim of winning her second Grand Slam gold medal. SHISHIME, 22, won in Düsseldorf in 2016 and took bronze last year and returns to the city for its first Grand Slam as the overwhelming favourite. Four-time world medallist Erika MIRANDA (BRA) has won 11 Grand Slam medals (four gold, four silver, three bronze) and will be confident of challenging for a fifth title after medalling at her last five events on the IJF World Judo Tour. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Charline VAN SNICK (BEL) and Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Astride GNETO (FRA) will have new medals in their sights while Valencia-based Kristine JIMENEZ (PAN) will be looking to build on some encouraging displays from 2017.


Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Nekoda SMYTHE-DAVIS (GBR) starts as the top seed in the -57kg category. The 24-year-old World Championships bronze medallist has a brace of silver and bronze Grand Slam medals but is more than capable of winning on the Grand Slam stage for the first time when she takes to the tatami on Friday. Tunis Grand Prix bronze medallist Miryam ROPER (PAN) returns to compete in her native country for the first time since switching allegiance to Panama in 2017. ROPER, 35, represented Germany at the London 2012 Olympics and Rio 2016 but, being born to a German mother and Panamanian father, started to wear a Panama flag on her judogi to prolong her career and was an instant revelation for Central America country by winning Grand Prix and Grand Slam honours and took fifth-place at the Worlds. Former world champion UDAKA Nae (JPN), 2014 world bronze medallist Sanne VERHAGEN (NED) and Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist YAMAMOTO Anzu (JPN) are all unseeded and will be highly-dangerous for their first opponents.


Olympic champion Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) had to settle for bronze in Paris earlier this month and will expect to better that result at the second Grand Slam of the season. The Slovenian’s arch-rival Clarisse AGBEGNENOU, the reigning world champion and Paris Grand Slam winner, will not be in action in Germany which puts all the focus on TRSTENJAK who will be bidding for her fifth Grand Slam crown. European Games winner Martyna TRAJDOS (GER) won bronze in Paris to enter her home event in form and perhaps has her best ever opportunity to strike IJF gold in Germany. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam silver medallist Lucy RENSHALL (GBR) and Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist TSUGANE Megumi (JPN) will both have strong medal ambitions in the -63kg category.


Three-time world champion and double Olympic medallist Yuri ALVEAR (COL) is the top seed for the -70kg category in Germany. World Judo Masters bronze medallist Anna BERNHOLM (SWE) will also be in contention for silverware in the -70kg category along with World Judo Masters silver medallist Barbara MATIC (CRO) and Tokyo Grand Slam winner ONO Yoko (JPN) while former Tbilisi Grand Prix Szaundra DIEDRICH (GER) could win her first IJF major with home advantage.


World champion Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) starts her season in Germany and will be under pressure not just as the owner of a red backpatch but also after her country failed to win a medal at the Paris Grand Slam. Double Olympic bronze medallist AGUIAR, 26, has won bronze at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and finished seventh at the World Judo Masters since winning her second world title last year. Both world bronze medallists Natalie POWELL (GBR) and Kaliema ANTOMARCHI (CUB), World Judo Masters bronze medallist Karen STEVENSON (NED), Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist SATO Ruika (JPN) and the hosts’ own 18-time Grand Prix medallist Luise MALZAHN (GER) will be looking to shine on day three of the Grand Slam.


Openweight world champion ASAHINA Sarah (JPN) has won five of her last six events but missed out on finishing 2017 as the world number one as KIM Minjeong (KOR) snatched top spot with victory at the World Judo Masters in Russia. ASAHINA, 21, of Tokai University, was not present in St. Petersburg or at the Paris Grand Slam earlier this month which was also won by KIM. The Japanese starlet will be on a mission to win and win convincingly at her first competition in 2018 and few would expect anything else from the in-form heavyweight. Two-time World Judo Masters bronze medallist Larisa CERIC (BIH) is one of Europe’s top heavyweights which can also be said about Iryna KINDZERSKA (AZE) who won in Düssledorf last year and picked up bronze in Paris recently. France and Brazil have all gone with two judoka each in the +78kg category while hosts Germany have picked four. Tashkent Grand Prix winner Anamari VELENSEK (SLO) has missed the podium in the season-opening events in Tunis and Paris and finds herself ranked 24th in the world and will therefore be unseeded and in a position where she would have to upset the top-ranked judoka to build momentum in Germany.



World Judo Masters winner and world number two NAGAYAMA Ryuju (JPN) competes in Germany for the first time in his career on Friday as he goes in search of a third Grand Slam title. Former Junior World Championships winner NAGAYAMA 21, who is second in the rankings behind national team and Tokai colleague TAKATO Naohisa (JPN) has already won in Tokyo and Ekaterinburg and needs to win in Düsseldorf to keep pace with his teammate. Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP), who lost out to NAGAYAMA at the Masters final in December, is also a former Junior world champion and has Grand Prix and Grand Slam wins to his name and is ranked third in the world behind the two aforementioned Japanese. Former world champion GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL), Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Robert MSHVIDOBADZE (RUS), Olympic champion Beslan MUDRANOV (RUS) and Olympic and world bronze medallist Diyorbek UROZBOEV (UZB) could also be among the leading pack in the pursuit for -60kg gold.


Israel are the leading contenders in the -66kg category on paper with the two top seeds in the form of world bronze medallist Tal FLICKER (ISR) and World Judo Masters bronze medallist Baruch SHMAILOV (ISR). There’s plenty of intrigue in the category with no clear favourite but rather a whole cast of standouts looking to eclipse one another before hoping for a shot at world champion ABE Hifumi (JPN) down the line. Ekaterinburg Grand Slam winner Abdula ABDULZHALILOV (RUS) would surprise no one if he topped the field while European champion Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) is capable of anything, from stealing the show to falling in the prelims. European bronze medallist Nijat SHIKHALIZADA (AZE) is working towards to his home World Championships in September and has teammate and world silver medallist Orkhan SAFAROV (AZE) on his mind as the latter will make his -66kg debut on the IJF World Judo Tour.


Olympic and world silver medallist Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) is the top-ranked judoka present in the -73kg category in Düsseldorf but it’s a younger teammate who will be tipped as the favourite. World Judo Masters bronze medallist Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) has emerged from the shadow of ORUJOV and is in pole position for Tokyo 2020 selection at this stage with qualification due to start in May. Olympic champion and double world champion ONO Shohei (JPN) made a short-lived return at the Tokyo Grand Slam where he squeezed past world number 123 Bektur RYSMAMBETOV (KGZ) on penalties in golden score before pulling out of the event with a knee injury. ONO, 26, who has slipped down to 60th place in the rankings due to his inactivity, has since finished his thesis, ‘An Analysis of Osoto-Gari’ at Tenri University, and is now completely focused purely on his judo. The 2013 and 2015 world champion will be keen to show that in Düsseldorf which has been a happy hunting ground for the thrower of throwers who won Germany’s long-running Grand Prix in 2015 and 2016 and has an 11-0 fight record in the country. World bronze medallist GANBAATAR Odbayar (MGL) is ranked third in the world and recorded both of his Grand Slam wins in 2017 with more in mind in 2018.


World Judo Masters bronze medallist Alan KHUBETSOV (RUS) tops the billing in the entry list as the world number three. World bronze medallist Saeid MOLLAEI (IRI) is just behind the Russian as the world number four and World Judo Masters silver medallist Aslan LAPPINAGOV (RUS), who won in Düsseldorf a year ago, is sixth with the -81kg hierarchy set to be reconfigured in Germany. European silver medallist Dominic RESSEL (GER) will lead the line for Germany with world champion Alexander WIECZERZAK (GER) notable by his absence at his country’s new Grand Slam. London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN), Tashkent Grand Prix winner Sagi MUKI (ISR) and double Olympic bronze medallist Leandro GUILHEIRO (BRA) are all unseeded and overdue a medal on the IJF World Judo Tour.


World Judo Masters bronze medallist Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) won his first Grand Slam in 2017 and will be the number one seed in the -90kg category. The Tbilisi-born world number three clinched Abu Dhabi Grand Slam gold in October and will looking to medal in Germany for the first time in his fourth competition in Düsseldorf. Tashkent Grand Prix winner USTOPIRIYON Komronshokh (TJK) is a six-time Grand Prix medallist but still in search of a first Grand Slam medal and has a strong possibility of attaining an elusive medal on Sunday. Paris Grand Slam medallist Eduard TRIPPEL (GER) beat a Junior world champion and former senior world champion on his way to winning his first Grand Slam honour in France and will be predicted a podium finish at home. Olympic champion BAKER Mashu (JPN) competes for the first time since winning Rio 2016 after overcoming a shoulder injury and regained his fitness through a series of domestic camps including the Tokyo Grand Slam camp in December. The 23-year-old, who has enjoyed a taste of superstardom after winning his first Games, is ready to wear his gold backpatch for the first time in competition and will be joined in action by teammate and Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist KOBAYASHI Yusuke (JPN).


Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) will be seeking his first Grand Slam gold medal at -100kg when he takes to the tatami on Sunday having won three titles in the -90kg category before moving up a division last year. World number two LIPARTELIANI, 29, has made one of smoothest ever transitions to a new weight category and won the World Judo Masters in December to close in on top spot at -100kg after just 12 months of competition at the heavier weight. World Judo Masters bronze medallist CIRJENICS Miklos (HUN) is in the best form of his career and the world number three has to maintain his recent flurry of medals form the end of 2017 to keep pace with the leading men at -100kg. European champion Elkhan MAMMADOV (AZE) has shown no signs of slowing down at the age of 36 and took bronze at the Masters in December. Openweight world silver medallist Toma NIKIFOROV (BEL) will be confident of opening his 2018 medal account in Germany while Jorge FONSECA (POR) brings fireworks and former world champion HAGA Ryunosuke (JPN) is on the comeback trail after just one competition last year.


Olympic silver medallist HARASAWA Hisayoshi (JPN) competes for the first time since his shock exit in round two of the World Championships last September. The 25-year-old, who was unbeaten on the international circuit from 2014 to 2016, only fought twice last year with a silver medal in Düsseldorf and an early elimination at the Worlds seeing him lose favour with the Japanese selectors. A four-time Grand Slam winner, HARASAWA desperately needs to win in Germany to regain his confidence and standing as one of the world’s elite heavyweights. Two-time Grand Slam winner OJITANI Takeshi (JPN) has also slipped down the pecking order after a third round defeat at the Worlds and a seventh-place finish at the Tokyo Grand Slam and needs to perform here. Both Japanese heavyweights are just 25 but have been fallible on the biggest occasions in their careers thus far and start the second Grand Slam of the season unseeded. Paris Grand Slam silver medallist KIM Sungmin (KOR), Junior world silver medallist Stephan HEGYI (AUT), former World Judo Masters winner Adam OKRUASHVILI (GEO) and Olympic bronze medallist SASSON Or (ISR) are all also worth tracking this Sunday.



Friday 23 February

Preliminary rounds - 10:00 (Three tatami)
Final block - 17:00 (One tatami)

Men: -60kg, -66kg
Women: -48kg, -52kg, -57kg

Saturday 24 February

Preliminary rounds - 10:00 (Three tatami)
Final block - 17:00 (One tatami)

Men: -73kg, -81kg
Women: -63kg, -70kg

Sunday 25 February

Preliminary rounds - 10:00 (Three tatami)
Final block - 17:00 (One tatami)

Men: -90kg, -100kg, +100kg
Women: -78kg, +78kg