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Abu Dhabi Grand Slam hosts top stars in women's judo
25 Oct 2017 16:10
The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam this week will feature a number of interesting ingredients looking at the women’s division. World Champions Sumiya Sorjsuren (MGL) and Mayra Aguiar (BRA) will be fighting. Abu Dhabi Title defenders Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh (KAZ), Guusje Steenhuis (NED) and Maria Suelen Altheman (BRA) are present and Olympic Champions Paula Pareto (ARG) and Rafaela Silva (BRA) will show their best. Furthermore some nice comeback such as Laura Vargas Koch who had been injured for a long time.
Rio 2016 Olympic champion Paula Pareto (ARG) competes in her first Grand Slam since 2014 and will be targeting a second Grand Slam win and first in five years. Pareto, 31, who won the Rio Grand Slam in 2012, returned to the IJF World Judo Tour in September with a bronze medal at the Zagreb Grand Prix and will expect to star in the U.A.E. Olympic and world bronze medallist Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh (KAZ) is a two-time Grand Slam winner and will be a force to be reckoned with on day one. Four-time Grand Slam medallist Milica Nikolic (SRB) has never won a Grand Slam but will be hard pressed to change that this weekend with such a talent-laden field but this is judo and we know that anything can happen.
World number three Erika Miranda (BRA) took bronze at the World Championships in August and has topped the medal podium at a Grand Slam on four occasions. The Brazilian judoka from the Judo Sogipa academy starts as the top seed and favourite in Abu Dhabi ahead of Cancun Grand Prix bronze medallist Angelica Delgado (USA), Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Charline Van Snick (BEL) and European Championships bronze medallist Joana Ramos (POR).
World champion Dorjsuren Sumiya (MGL) and Rio 2016 Olympic champion Rafaela Silva (BRA) will both see action in the -57kg category in Abu Dhabi. While Silva beat Dorjsuren in the Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro it’s the Mongolian who has since usurped the Brazilian and everyone at -57kg to rule the world for her country. Olympic bronze medallist Telma Monteiro (POR) and world bronze medallist Nekoda Smythe-Davis (GBR) will be in contention while former Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist Christa Deguchi returns from the wilderness to make her debut for Canada. The 21-year-old won Grand Prix, Grand Slam and Junior Worlds medals for her native Japan but has decided to switch to represent Canada to boost her chances of competing at an Olympic Games and has completed her two-year grace period after being released by the All Japan Judo Federation. She is opposed to world champion Sumiya Dorjsuren as a tough start.
Tashkent Grand Prix winner Kathrin Unterwurzacher (AUT) will be bidding for a Grand Slam gold medal hat-trick this weekend and starts as the top seed. At the same time the Austrian Championships take place but a small team preferred the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam as well as Magdalena Krssakova. The world number three Unterwurzacher has won the Baku and Tokyo editions and took silver in Abu Dhabi a year ago. Ekaterinburg Grand Slam bronze medallist Amy Livesey (GBR) has snuck up to sixth-place on the World Ranking List and the SKK Judo Club product could move higher with a medal finish on her Abu Dhabi debut. Antalya Grand Prix bronze medallist and world number 13 Katharina Haecker (AUS) will be keen to pick up points to solidify her place inside the top 16 which would guarantee an automatic entry to the season-ending World Judo Masters in December.
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Laura Vargas Koch (GER) returns to the competition tatami for the first time since the Games and could make a winning return. Tbilisi Grand Prix winner and Rio 2016 Olympian Maria Portela (BRA) is the number one seed in the -70kg category. The five-time Grand Slam medallist took silver here last year and is more than capable of producing a similar finish in 2017. Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Gercsak Szabina (HUN) could open her Grand Slam medal account on Friday which will also be the aim of world number 13 Assmaa Niang (MAR) who is a surprise inclusion in November’s Openweight World Championships. Triple European Champion Kim Polling (NED) is worth while watching as she opens against Brazils Barbara Timo who’s in shape.
World champion Mayra Aguiar (BRA) bids for her fifth Grand Slam title and could run away with pole position in the -78kg rankings before the year is out. The 26-year-old double Olympic bronze medallist leads the rankings with Grand Slams, Grand Prix and a World Masters still on the calendar and Aguiar will be the overwhelming favourite every time her name enters the hat on the eve of the competition. World number two Natalie Powell (GBR) became the first Welsh judoka to win a World Championships medal when she won bronze in August and has won silver and bronze medals on the Grand Slam stage but is still seeking an elusive gold. Former world number one Guusje Steenhuis (NED) suffered an early exit at the Worlds and will look to bounce back at the first attempt to retain her 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam title.
Baku Grand Slam winner Tessie Savelkouls (NED) starts as the top seed but world bronze medallist Iryna Kindzerska (AZE) will be out to win her first gold medal for Azerbaijan and Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Sarah Adlington (GBR) has more medal aspirations amid her best ever run on the IJF World Judo Tour. Maria Suelen Altheman of Brazil defends last year's title.
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