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Jeju promises gala with judo stars
25 Nov 2015 12:05
Ten of the fourteen of last year’s winners will defend their titles at the Grand Prix of Jeju. Andreea Chitu, Automne Pavia, Clarisse Agbegnenou, Gevrise Emane, Audrey Tcheumeo, Kim JiYoun and in the men’s category: Kim Won-Jin, Gwak Dong-Han, Cho Guham and Teddy Riner. Also four Olympic Champions are in Jeju. Besides Riner also Kayla Harrison, Idalys Ortiz and Sarah Menezes.
Olympic champion Sarah MENEZES has been in freefall with a second round exit in the worlds and the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam just an example of her recent shortcomings. Former World Judo Masters winner ENDO Hiromi (JPN) makes her return to the IJF World Judo Tour after a two-year absence through injury while Junior world champion Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) reverts to -48kg duty for the first time since 2014.
World silver medallist Andreea CHITU (ROU), the perennial top seed in the -52kg category, will lead the field into action on day one from pole position. CHITU, who finished outside of the medals at the recent Grand Slams in Paris and Abu Dhabi, can expect opposition from Abu Dhabi gold medallist Annabelle EURANIE (FRA) and Paris bronze medallist Priscilla GNETO (FRA). World Judo Masters bronze medallist Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) returns to the IJF World Judo Tour after being sidelined by a knee injury (MCL tear and torn meniscus) since finishing fifth at the worlds in August.
World bronze medallist Automne PAVIA (FRA) missed out on the podium in Paris and Abu Dhabi while home judoka KIM Jan-Di (KOR) won both the Tashkent Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in October to skyrocket up the rankings into the world’s top 10.
Three-time consecutive world medallist Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) won the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last time out and will be the favourite to win -63kg gold. The top seed will be joined by Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze medallist Anicka VAN EMDEN (NED), Tashkent Grand Prix winner Edwige GWEND (ITA) and Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Alice SCHLESINGER (GBR).
Abu Dhabi Grand Slam gold medallist Laura VARGAS KOCH (GER) is the form judoka in the category and will be widely tipped to emerge triumphant despite the presence of world champion Gevrise EMANE (FRA). EMANE, 33, lost her opening contest in Qingdao and will expect to return to winning ways at her sixth international event of the year. World silver medallist Maria BERNABEU (ESP) competes for the second time since her sensational performance in Astana while Qingdao Grand Prix bronze medallist KIM Seong-Yeon (KOR) could go all the way on home soil.
Olympic champion and world number one Kayla HARRISON (USA) won bronze at the Qingdao Grand Prix and will demand the same as a minimum in Jeju. Qingdao Grand Prix runner-up Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) has also moved on to South Korea with another podium in mind which can also be said of Olympic silver medallist Gemma GIBBONS (GBR) who took bronze in China a week ago. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze medallists Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) and JOO Abigel (HUN) will also be in action.
Olympic champion and former world champion Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) finished in seventh-place at the Qingdao Grand Prix as her eratic form shows no sign of abating. ORTIZ won bronze at the World Championships in August and is still seeking her first medal since Astana. Former Junior world champion ASAHINA Sarah (JPN) – who recently won her third Kodokan Cup title - has been identified as one of Japan’s four heavyweight hopefuls for Rio 2016. The 19-year-old, a graduate of Shibuya Senior High School along with world champion NAKAMURA Misato (JPN), received words of encouragement from YAMASHITA Yashuhiro before leaving Tokai University to travel to Jeju. Tashkent Grand Prix winner KIM Min-Jeong (KOR) took bronze in Qingdao and will be among the favourites in her homeland.
World number one and world bronze medallist KIM Won Jin (KOR) will be the man to beat in the men’s lightest weight category on day one. The 23-year-old won his home event last year and will expect to achieve the same this year as the South Korean team have been in imperious form in recent months on the IJF World Judo Tour. Paris Grand Slam silver medallist Vincent LIMARE (FRA) competes in Jeju for the first time while former world champion GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL) is still searching for his first gold medal since winning the world crown in 2014.
World silver medallist Mikhail PULYAEV (RUS) is the top seed in the -66kg category and could capture more medals by himself on day one than the entire 18-strong Russian team captured a week ago in Qingdao. PULYAEV did not see action in China as the Russian team endured a barren weekend with no medals to show for their underwhelming competition. World bronze medallist Golan POLLACK (ISR) will be in action along with Nijat SHIKHALIZADA (AZE) who enters on the back of victory in Qingdao.
World number one Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) took silver in Qingdao and will expect to be amongst the medals again in Asia this week. European Games bronze medallist Dirk VAN TICHELT (BEL) has back-to-back fifth-place finishes to his name from the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and Qingdao Grand Prix and will be hoping to finally grace a medal podium at the third time of asking. World bronze medallist AN Changrim (KOR) won gold here last year just four weeks after winning the Junior world crown and the fast-rising South Korean fighter now occupies second place on the world ranking list.
Olympic champion KIM Jae-Bum (KOR), who exited the World Championships and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in the preliminary rounds in recent months, has been left out by the hosts. KIM, who won the Jeju Grand Prix in 2013 and 2014, was beaten in the South Korean national championships by ippon in the pool stage recently as Beijing 2008 Olympic silver medallist WANG Ki-Chun ruled the -81kg category. Baku Grand Slam winner Khasan KHALMURZAEV (RUS) is the top seed while Ivaylo IVANOV (BUL) has become a breakout star over the last month with gold at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and bronze at the Qingdao Grand Prix.
World champion GWAK Dong Han (KOR) finished seventh on his sole outing since winning the world title as he fell in the repechage at the Tashkent Grand Prix in October. The Asian champion, 23, ruled in Jeju in 2013 and 2014 and will be looking for his hat-trick this year. Qingdao Grand Prix bronze medallist Alexandre IDDIR (FRA) has made the trip to Jeju along with former world silver medallist TOTH Krisztian (HUN) who took bronze at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
World Judo Masters winner Elmar GASIMOV (AZE) is the number one seed in the -100kg category. GASIMOV won bronze last week in Qingdao as his team is hitting form at a crucial time in the Rio 2016 Olympic qualification phase. Former world silver medallist is looking to work his way back to the form of his 2014 showing in Chelyabinsk where he stepped onto a senior world podium for the first time while Olympic champion Tagir KHAIBULAEV (RUS) has rediscovered his Midas touch this year and will be a front-runner in Jeju.
Record-breaking eight-time world champion and Olympic champion Teddy RINER (FRA) was once again in a class of his own in Qingdao. The French hero has starred at the World Judo Masters, World Championships, French national championships and Qingdao Grand Prix this year, and will bring his year to a close by participating at the Jeju Grand Prix for the second year in a row. Glasgow European Open bronze medallist Thormodur JONSSON (ISL) has been preparing at the Kodokan for the Grand Prix while Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Roy MEYER (NED) and European Games bronze medallist Renat SAIDOV (RUS) will be tipped to challenge in Korea.
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Ben De Cort (NED)
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