Abu Dhabi is preparing to host the last event of the World Judo Tour, in a season which has kept all its promises. Despite the global health situation which put the world of sport in the path of a major challenge, judo has been able to unite around its values to offer a show that meets the high expectations that millions of fans place on our sport every year.
With the draw concluded, the potential for spectacular contests is clear. A strong French team has travelled, for instance, with 21 athletes. It is team composed of former glories like Loïc Pietri and Marie-Eve Gahié, both world champions and newcomers Francis Damier and Chloe Devictor. It is also with great pleasure that we note the comeback of Amandine Buchard, silver medallist in Tokyo and now ready to launch the next chapter of her already very successful career.
We note the presence of Telma Monteiro (POR) in the -57kg category, whose record is absolutely incredible: 1 Olympic medal, 5 world medals, four times on the World Judo Masters podium, 17 WJT podia and 11 continental medals. She is still motivated to compete at the highest level.
At -63kg Andreja Leski (SLO) dominated the Zagreb Grand Prix some weeks ago and seems to be in really good shape after her silver medal at the World Championships in June. Will she once again be on top of the podium?
With 20 competitors registered across the men’s and women's divisions, Mongolia shows that they are willing to be among the best in the years ahead. This is the case for many nations, already in full preparation mode. Ramazan Abdulaev will kickstart the Russian campaign. The three time World Judo Tour medallist in 2021, in Tel Aviv, Kazan and Paris, wants to conclude his season on the highest note.
Lasha Shavdatuashvili is a hero, undoubtedly and not only in Georgia. The three-time Olympic medallist and now world champion, since June in Budapest, is back and that reveals the level of this edition of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
Matthias Casse (BEL) is also present in the U.A.E. After his world title in Budapest and his bronze medal in Tokyo this summer, his comeback was not easy, with the Belgian champion unable to reach the podium in Paris very recently. Will Abu Dhabi smile at him?
The Uzbek team, led by coach Ilias Iliadis, is already preparing for their World Championships next year in Tashkent. Nine athletes are present in Abu Dhabi. It's a safe bet to imagine that some will get medals.
Each category will have its group of favourites and underdogs, while once again the -100kg category will show quite a few competitors with brimming medal cabinets and also those becoming regulars on the rostrum: Arman Adamian (RUS), Shady Elnahas (CAN), Michael Korrel (NED), Toma Nikiforov (BEL).
Each category is undecided though as top athletes may not be on top form and young ones are pushing hard to reach the spotlight. This is why Abu Dhabi will not only be the last event of the season, it will also be a very good indicator of what will happen in the months to come.