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Cyrille Maret aiming for fourth victory in Paris
10 Feb 2017 18:00
A large team of 28 French men will please the home crowd in Paris at the first Olympic World Tour event for 2020. Cyrille Maret is the man who can win the title for the fourth time in a row. Not yet as good as the six victories for Riner, but still legendary to be able to win a fourth title in the new AccorArena in Paris. Riner won’t compete this time, but there are enough athletes left to enjoy the Grand Slam of Paris.
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallists Diyorbek Urozboev (UZB) and Takato Naohisa (JPN) will be tipped for glory but 20-year-old Tokyo Grand Slam winner Nagayama Ryuju (JPN) is the one to watch at -60kg on his Paris debut. The Junior World Championships winner will be matched against the best of France and the world with World Judo Masters silver medallist Vincent Limare (FRA), European champion Walide Khyar (FRA), former world number one Orkhan Safarov (AZE) and eight-time Grand Slam medallist Amiran Papinashvili (GEO) among the stars on show in the lightest men’s category.
One more of Japan’s Paris debutants could outshine his contemporaries on day one as Youth Olympic Games winner Abe Hifumi (JPN) has finally been given a chance to perform at one of the sport’s flagship events. The 19-year-old, who is already a three-time Grand Slam winner, needs to perform to the best of his ability to receive the nod for selection to his first World Championships in August.
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Rustam Orujov (AZE) is bidding to win the Paris tournament for the first time on his third outing in France. Orujov, who took silver at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in his only IJF competition since Rio 2016, starts as the top seed but has World Judo Masters winner Hashimoto Shoichi (JPN) for company and the Japanese judoka is unbeaten in his last four competitions. Defending Paris Grand Slam champion An Changrim (KOR) exited his first Olympics in the third round and restarts his Olympic bid this weekend alongside double Olympic medallist Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO) who is still only 25 and could be on track for one more Olympics.
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Sergiu Toma (U.A.E) will offer the strongest challenge of his career in Paris having entered the prime of his career. Toma, 30, won IJF and Olympic honours in 2016, to add to his World Judo Masters and World Championships bronze medals. The United Arab Emirates’ first Olympic judo medallist can expect to be pushed by household names of the division including former world and Masters bronze medallist Victor Penalber (BRA) and Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist Ivaylo Ivanov (BUL).
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist and former world champion Gwak Donghan (KOR) has the man he stood next to on the Olympic podium, Chinese revelation Cheng Xunzhao (CHN), for company in a compelling -90kg field. Unseeded Cheng produced scalp after scalp against the world’s elite in one of the most stunning performances of the Olympics. Cheng will be feared by everyone in the category in Paris, including Gwak, while Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist Axel Clerget (FRA) is one course to becoming his country’s number one at this weight if he can outperform Alexandre Iddir (FRA). Former World Judo Masters winner Beka Gviniashvili (GEO) has moved back down to -90kg but another teammate could become an obstacle for him as former world champion Avtandili Tchrikishvili GEO) has elected to move up from -81kg to -90kg.
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Elmar Gasimov (AZE) is the world number one and top seed and will be looking to control the fate of the category on Sunday. Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Cyrille Maret (FRA) has been unbeatable in his home event in recent years having completed a hat-trick of victories from 2014 – 2016. A fourth victory would equal Stephane Traineau. Teddy Riner won six times is the record holder.
Tokyo Grand Slam winner Kirill Denisov (RUS) has not tasted defeat at -100kg since jumping up from -90kg in November and has his toughest assignment yet on Sunday. Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Varlam Liparteliani (GEO) will hope for a similar transition to Denisov as the Georgian ace is one more mover and shaker as he has entered the Paris Grand Slam at -100kg.
World Judo Masters winner Daniel Natea (ROU) has won both of his IJF competitions since his early elimination at the Olympic Games. Natea won the Zagreb Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam towards the end of 2016 and arrives in Paris as the number one heavyweight seed. Double Olympic bronze medallist Rafael Silva (BRA) and double World Judo Masters bronze medallist Roy Meyer (NED), three-time Grand Slam medallist Levani Matiashvili (GEO) and double world silver medallist Shichinohe Ryu (JPN) will all see the absence of all-time great Teddy Riner (FRA) as an opportunity to show that they are the second best heavyweight in the world and could one day score on the French legend.
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Etienne Briand (CAN)
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Inside Judo Coach