The long wait for judo fans is nearly at an end. The International Judo Federation (IJF) has confirmed that the World Judo Tour will return to action at the Grand Slam Hungary between 23 and 25 October in Budapest.
The tour has been at a standstill since the suspension of the Rabat Grand Prix in March of this year. In the intervening months, a number of other international judo events have been suspended or cancelled owing to the measures taken in response to the global health crisis surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.
The President of the IJF, Marius Vizer, described the upcoming event in Budapest as “an historic moment for world judo”. “I would like to warmly thank everyone for the efforts made, in a difficult period for everyone,” he said. “We must adapt for Covid-19, and what better way to demonstrate that than the return of our beloved World Judo Tour.”
The Grand Slam will see 624 judoka from 80 countries, including 46 athletes from home nation Hungary, compete across a full range of weight categories. Among the standout names set to perform are those of 2016 Olympic Champion Fabio Basile and reigning World Champion Marie Eve Gahié.
Nikoloz Sherazadishvili, the 2018 World Champion, summed up the feelings of his fellow competitors ahead of their return to elite action: “I am very happy that it looks like the first Grand Slam is going to be held this year after the quarantine. Looking forward to feeling those nerves and the adrenaline of a competition again and starting with the Grand Slam.”
The event in Budapest assumes added importance for the judoka, since it will also give them their first opportunity since February to score qualification points for next summer’s Olympic Games. The prospect of performing in Tokyo next year has served as a key motivation for the world’s best during this long period without competition.
Unfortunately, Japan will no longer be hosting its own Grand Slam prior to those Games. In the light of the continued uncertainty around the pandemic, the IJF has announced the cancellation of the Tokyo Grand Slam, which had been scheduled to take place in December. However, Qatar has confirmed that the World Judo Masters will take place in Doha as previously announced, from 11 to 13 January 2021.