The World Judo Tour returned to action at the weekend with the rescheduled Grand Slam Hungary. The International Judo Federation (IJF) event saw 254 men and 151 women participate in 14 different weight categories across three days of intense competition.
The Russian Federation topped the medal table with five golds, all picked up in the men’s competitions. Such was the dominance of the country’s male judoka that four of the seven men’s categories featured all-Russian finals.
They included the last match of the weekend, the gold medal bout in the men’s heavyweight +100 kg competition between Inal Tasoev and Tamerlan Bashaev. In a fitting finale to the Grand Slam, Tasoev put on a skillful demonstration of transition techniques and secured one of the few ne-waza wins of the third day, displaying a crocodile-style roll into osae-komi to claim the gold medal.
Olympic Momentum: Riner's charge to becoming champion in London and Rio
Meanwhile France put in the strongest showing in the women’s competitions, ending the weekend with two golds and three silvers.
Even without world number two and reigning World Champion Madeleine Malonga, who did not travel to Budapest, the French women dominated the -78 kg category. An engrossing competition ended with 2011 World Champion Audrey Tcheumeo defeating compatriot Fanny Estelle Posvite in the gold medal match. Everything now seems to be set up perfectly for a fascinating battle between the three judoka over the coming months, as they seek to earn the right to represent their nation at the Olympic Games next summer in Tokyo.
Elsewhere, many of the competitors will simply be relieved to have returned to action and to have a competition under their belt. Portugal’s reigning World Champion Jorge Fonseca, who previously overcame cancer, was one of the competing judoka to have tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the year. Although he may have been disappointed not to reach the final of the men’s -100 kg tournament, Fonseca headed home with the consolation of a brilliant o-soto gari that saw him secure a podium spot in the bronze medal bout against Shady Elnahas.
IJF commentator and former World Champion Loretta Cusack-Doyle praised the “resilience, resourcefulness and determination” of the athletes. “For many the lengthy lay-off from competitive judo had hampered their preparation, added to which were the additional protocols required to run the competition in a safe environment,” she explained. “It does well for judo that we can demonstrate effective adaptation, to keep the show on the road and maintain quality when everything appears to be conspiring against us.”
Davis: Tokyo heartbreak transformed my Olympic ambitions - and shifted goalposts to Paris 2024
Zoom - Learning the 'Peruvian choke' from Clarisse Agbegnenou