World’s leading judokas head to Croatia for IJF Zagreb Grand Prix

World’s leading judokas head to Croatia for IJF Zagreb Grand Prix

26/07/2018 at 17:12Updated 26/07/2018 at 17:14

The International Judo Federation (IJF) World Judo Tour heads back to Europe this weekend with Croatia hosting the Zagreb Grand Prix.

The sixth annual edition of the IJF Zagreb Grand Prix will see three days of world-class judo action from 27 to 29 July with a total of 573 competitors – 367 men and 206 women – from 81 countries set to descend on the Croatian capital.

Following on from the respective continental championships and the Hohhot Grand Prix, the visit to Zagreb and Croatia’s leg of the IJF World Judo Tour is the penultimate competition before September’s World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The Arena Zagreb – or “the Zagreb shell” as it is known – will be covered with tatami and the venue for the weekend’s action and what is the latest stage of the IJF World Judo Tour.

It may seem a long way away yet, but the importance of this tournament has not gone unrecognised amongst the vast number of judokas making their way to Croatia. It will be the first major point on the road to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, and the points and victories up for grabs and gained here will impact on the ranking list and seeding for September’s World Championships and Tokyo in two years time.

With a lot at stake and at such a prestigious occasion, there are number of key competitors to look out for.

In the men’s under 60 kg category, Naohisa Takato, the current number two in the world rankings, is expected to feature prominently, although a major challenge is expected from Russia’s Islam Yashuev who took gold in the 2018 European Championships.

In the under 73 kg category, the Azerbaijan duo of Rustam Orujov and Hedayat Heydarov – the European Senior champion in 2017 – will go into the tournament as leading contenders, along with Sweden’s Tommy Macias who won the Antalya Grand Prix back in April.

The over 100 kg category is likely to be wide open now that double Olympic Champion Teddy Riner has opted to miss the tournament he won last year.It means Georgia’s Guram Tushishvili, the current frontrunner in the IJF standings and 2017 European gold medalist will start as tournament favourite alongside the reigning European Champion, Lukas Krplek of the Czech Republic.

In the women’s competition, Great Britain’s Nekoda Scythe-Davis will hope to go one better than last year’s silver medal in the under 57 kg category and take advantage of the absence of last year’s winner, Momo Tamaoki.

The under 78 kg category could be one of the tightest competitions to call with the presence of all of the current top four in the world rankings: Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar, Great Britain’s Nathalie Powell, France’s Audrey Tcheuméo and The Netherlands’ Dutch Guusje Steenhuis.