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Basile fighting U73kg, Israeli team under IJF flag in Abu Dhabi Grand Slam
25 Oct 2017 15:35
The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam is one of five Grand Slams on the IJF World Judo Tour and is the premier judo event in the region. For many athletes the circumstances and weather conditions are a good reason to fly to Abu Dhabi each year. The Grand Slam of Abu Dhabi grew to an important event and will for some heavyweight athletes be a preparation on the Open Weight World Championships in November in Marakech.
World number two Amiran Papinashvili (GEO) is a Grand Slam specialist with 10 medals to his name and the Georgian star enters on the back of winning the Zagreb Grand Prix last time out. Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Albert Oguzov (RUS) is still seeking his first Grand Slam gold but will have to negotiate a star-studded field including 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Francisco Garrigos (ESP) and London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Felipe Kitadai (BRA).
World bronze medallist Tal Flicker or Israel will fight under the IJF Flag for the sad occasion. He is up to the lofty heights of second place on the World Ranking List after his exploits in Budapest and will attract the greatest attention in the -66kg category. Fellow world bronze medallist Vazha Margvelashvili (GEO) is also in Abu Dhabi and the former European champion is poised for a career-best result on the Grand Slam stage with a bronze from Paris sitting alone on the Grand Slam shelf in his medal cabinet. Three-time world silver medallist Mikhail Puliaev (RUS) will be in medal pursuit while European bronze medallist Nijat Shikhalizada (AZE) is due a sparkling performance for 2018 Worlds hosts Azerbaijan.
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist and world silver medallist Rustam Orujov (AZE) won the Zagreb Grand Prix last time out with five ippons in as many contests. The Azeri star took silver in Abu Dhabi last year and bronze in 2014 and can be expected to complete his Abu Dhabi Grand Slam medal collection on day two. World bronze medallist Ganbaatar Odbayar (MGL) struck Grand Slam and World honours for the first time this year and at 28 has arrived at the peak of his career. Rio 2016 Olympic champion Fabio Basile (ITA) and Olympic bronze medallist Dirk Van Tichelt (BEL) have not been on the medal podium since Brazil and both need a morale-boosting performance to reinvigorate their careers from their post-Olympic syndrome to being influential judoka on the IJF World Judo Tour.
World number two took Ungvari Attila (HUB) Zagreb Grand Prix gold last time out in September has the platform to be in contention for his first Grand Slam medal as he starts as the top seed. World bronze medallist Saeid Mollaei (IR) picked up silver at the Baku Grand Slam this year and could improve on this career-best ranking of third in the world. Paris Grand Slam winner Frank De Wit, European champion Alan Khubetsov (RUS), Tashkent Grand Prix silver medallist Nyamsuren Dagvasuren (MGL) and Ekaterinburg Grand Slam bronze medallist Etienne Briand (CAN) are all capable of reaching the medal podium on Saturday.
World number one and European champion and Abu Dhabi title Aleksandar Kukolj (SRB) missed the medal podium at the World Championships as his younger teammate Nemanja Majdov (SRB) entered the history books as Serbia’s first world judo champion. Kukolj, 26, finished fifth at the Worlds and seventh at the Zagreb Grand Prix and will need to win at least a medal to maintain control of the -90kg billing and a potential $50,000 windfall which will be awarded to all 14 world number ones at the end of the year. Zagreb Grand Prix winner and former world silver medallist Toth Krisztian (HUN) will be in the medal hunt along with Tashkent Grand Prix winner Komronshokh Ustopiriyon (TJK) and former World Judo Masters winner Beka Gviniashvili (GEO).
World number one and European champion Elkhan Mammadov (AZE) leads one of the strongest categories in the competition. The leading judoka on the -100kg World Ranking List are all in Abu Dhabi but they will not all make the podium which will make for compulsive viewing on Saturday. World number two Michael Korrel (NED), world number three Varlam Liparteliani (GEO) and -100kg world bronze medallist Kirill Denisov (RUS) are all the world’s top five and will electrify the last day of the competition.
Double Olympic bronze medallist Rafael Silva (BRA) is the number one seed among Saturday’s heavy hitters. The world number five has to go back to 2014 for his last IJF gold medal and will be expected to supplement CBJ’s medal account on the last day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Or Sasson of Israel (fighting under IJF flag) won the Tashkent Grand Prix at the start of the month but knows that greater challengers await him in the U.A.E. European bronze medallist Roy Meyer (NED) will believe that he can register in the gold medal column at a Grand Slam for the first time while -100kg Olympic bronze medallist Cyrille Maret (FRA) steps up a weight to the +100kg category for the first time ahead of his participation at the Open weight World Championships next month alongside teammate and heavyweight king Teddy Riner (FRA).
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