It seemed obvious to find the Japanese reigning world champion, Sone Akira, in the final of the Grand Slam in Tashkent, as her domination before the global health crisis was impressive. The first athlete who was officially selected by the AJJF for the Olympic team, still had to discover how well she had managed the forced break of the past months.
This competition was also to serve as a benchmark in the preparation of Sone to be ready for the big Olympic rendezvous. She can be reassured since she won all her preliminary matches by ippon before the end of the regular time. In the final she found the Brazilian Beatriz Souza, eighth in the World Ranking List.
The first minutes of the final came down to a sharing of penalties on both sides. While the two finalists each had two shido to their name, things started to get serious because no mistakes were allowed anymore. Souza seemed solid on her feet, while Sonelaunched a few attempts on the left, among others on tai-otoshi and o-uchi-gari. Precise in her positions but sorely lacking in timing, Sone seemed unable to throw, while Souza retained a passive attitude which earned her third penalty, offering the victory to the World Champion. Obviously the latter is not yet sharpened for the Tokyo Games. She still has work to do and she showed some small weaknesses on while moving around the tatami that could have been sanctioned by a projection if Souza had believed in it.
In the first final for a bronze medal, Yelyzaveta Kalanina (UKR) faced a regular in major international competitions, the Tunisian Nihel Cheikh Rouhou (TUN). In the last minute, the Tunisian took a clear lead with a powerful ura-nage that was very close to the ippon, but that was enough to win her 9th medal in a grand slam.
To complete the podium, Anzhela Gasparian (RUS), seventh in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, took on Kim Hayun (KOR), 5th in the last World Judo Masters in Doha. One minute was enough for Kim to apply a shime-waza technique to win a second medal in a grand slam.
Once again, we saw a Japanese team winning medals, particularly the gold ones. Behind the tallies we still felt the Japanese were sometimes a little feverish and lacking rhythm, which is quite normal a few months before the Games. 24 countries finished on the podium and all together 35 were represented in the final block, over the three days.