At the opening day of the Grand Prix in the Hague, the Dutch home crowd will be witnessing the return of Olympic Champion Beslan Mudranov. The Russian lightweight hasn’t done any event since his victory in Rio. In The Hague the current number 41 of the World Ranking will start up his engines against young Dutchman Tibo Volleman. In The Hague Mudranov can win his tenth World Cup and sixth Grand Prix. However Spaniard Francisco Garrigos starts as the top seed in the men’s lightest weight category.
The 22-year-old Spaniard won the Cancun Grand Prix in June and could win his second on day one in The Hague if the world number five can continue to show his best judo. Former world silver medallist Dashdavaa Amartuvshin (MGL), Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Bekir Ozlu (TUR) and Cancun Grand Prix bronze medallist Ashley Mckenzie (GBR) all give the category some extra star quality while all eyes will be on Rio 2016 Olympic champion Beslan Mudranov (RUS) who competes for the first time since starring for Russia last summer.
Hohhot Grand Prix winner Yakub Shamilov (RUS) will be targeting his third Grand Prix gold medal when he lines up for action on Friday. Shamilov, whose two Grand Prix wins have come in China, is currently ranked 18th in the world and needs to be in the top 16 to guarantee a place at the season-ending World Judo Masters in St. Petersburg in December. Rio 2016 Olympian and four-time continental champion Nathan Katz (AUS) is still bidding to open his IJF World Judo Tour medal account and could earn his best result at this level on Friday. Hohhot Grand Prix bronze medallist Yondonperenlei Baskhuu (MGL) also has the tools to be chasing a place on the podium.
World number one Munkhbat Urantsetseg (MGL) won gold at the Tashkent Grand Prix in October and again looked set to be on a collision course with world and Olympic bronze medallist Galbadrakh Otgontsetseg (KAZ) but the former has decided, at the last minute, to step up to -52kg at this competition. World bronze medallist and world number two GALBADRAKH could now be unstoppable in the absence of her former teammate.
European champion Daria Bilodid (UKR) opened her IJF World Judo Tour medal account in June with bronze at the Hohhot Grand Prix and the 17-year-old sensation could improve on that in The Hague while the Netherlands will be excited at the prospect of releasing Junior world champion Amber Gersjes onto the international circuit. The 20-year-old could cap her Grand Prix debut with a big-league performance on home soil.
Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Charline Van Snick (BEL) won Grand Slam gold for the first time in her career last time out and is now up to eighth place in the world. The 27-year-old will be the U52kg favourite in The Hague as she bids to win her eighth Grand Prix gold medal. Two-time Grand Prix winner Distria Krasniqi (KOS) has finished seventh at the Worlds and European Championships this year after winning the Antalya Grand Prix and picking up bronze in Paris. The 21-year-old, whose teammate and Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS) will now be a long-term absentee after undergoing surgery, will be one of the young judoka to watch in this Tokyo 2020 cycle.
European Championships bronze medallist Nora Gjakova (KOS) won Grand Prix gold for the first time in April and starts as the top seed in the U57kg category in The Hague. The 25-year-old would break into the world’s top 10 with a medal-winning display and that’s exactly what will be expected from the Kosovo judoka. European Championships silver medallist and Dusseldorf Grand Prix winner Theresa Stoll (GER) is one of Germany’s new and exciting group of youngsters who are making waves since the Rio Olympics. Stoll will expect to medal in The Hague to continue her progress and with an open field the German judoka could go all the way.
Seven-time Grand Prix medallist Jovana Rogic (SRB) has never won Grand Prix gold and the world number 16 may not have a better chance than to win that elusive gold medal in the Netherlands. Rio 2016 Olympian Arleta Podolak (POL) memorably won the Almaty Grand Prix last year to seal her last-gasp qualification for her first Games. The 24-year-old, who has medalled twice on the IJF World Judo Tour, is ranked 61st in the world, and needs to start picking up medals and World Ranking List points to have a solid platform for when the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification phase starts in May 2018 to avoid going down to the wire in her bid to return to the Olympics.
In the morning Beslan Mudranov decided not to compete.