IJF Zagreb Grand Prix 2017, Croatia – PREVIEW

From International Judo Federation:


A few weeks after the 2017 Suzuki Judo World Championships, which successfully took place in Budapest, Hungary, in late August and early September, the Zagreb Grand Prix will take place from September 29 to October 1 and will see the return of the world’s elite to the tatami of the IJF World Judo Tour.

As the sixth Grand Prix of the season and fifth edition of the event in Croatia the level of the competition will be very high as many World and Olympic medalists are expected, including, in the men’s divisions, the Azeri pair of Rustam Orujov and Elmar Gasimov, both silver medallists in Rio, and Elkhan Mammadov, 2013 World Champion and Toth Krisztian, 2014 World Silver Medalist and in the women’s divisions, Nekoda Smythe-Davis (GBR), bronze medalist in Budapest at the end of the summer and Laura Vargas-Koch (GER), bronze medalist in Rio, who returns to competition after a year away from the tatami.

But two athletes will particularly be awaited, as -48kg Olympic Champion Paula Pareto (ARG) resumes competing here in Zagreb where as for one year she has devoted herself almost exclusively to her profession as a doctor, and King Riner, haloed with his two Olympic titles and nine world titles, the last being obtained in Budapest early September, who is engaged in + 100kg. The French giant considers Zagreb to be an unmissable event in his preparation for the next Openweight World Championship which will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November and which could see him win a 10th world title.

Teddy Riner

Mr. Naser Al Tamimi, IJF General Treasurer, in the name of the IJF and its President, Mr. Marius Vizer, officially opened the official draw at the Westin hotel, in downtown Zagreb: “Good afternoon to everyone. First of all, I want to congratulate the Croatian Judo Federation for having won the Best Development of a National Federation award. We can see here that this award was really deserved. This weekend we’ll have the Grand Prix, and soon we will have the Junior Worlds here in Zagreb. I wish you all the best with the organisation and I wish good luck to all the participants.“

During the draw, the President of the Croatian Judo Federation, Dr. Sanda Corak, who was accompanied by Mr. Milan Pavelic, Head of the Sport Department of the city of Zagreb, said: “It is my great pleasure to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the Croatian Judo Federation to the fifth edition of Judo Grand Prix Zagreb 2017. After the successful World Championships in Budapest I would like to congratulate to all medal winners but also to all the participants. Most of these top athletes we could see in Zagreb at our earlier events and we are sure that some of this year athletes we will see in Tokyo 2020.

“Therefore, I believe that Croatian Judo Federation together with Zagreb Judo Association will be able to meet all your expectations during the competition.

“This Grand Prix is the most important senior Judo event in Croatia. It helps the Croatian economy. The event is held in the beautiful city of zagreb and people from outside can discover Croatia. It’s good for the tourism for instance. Because of the growth of our federation and because of the great work that we have been doing, we have more than 100 more competitors this year compared to last year. Among all the participating countries, 16 are coming from outside of Europe, which is extraordinary.

“My special thanks goes to all partners, sponsors and to all those who have worked hard and with great enthusiasm to organise this Grand Prix event. I will also like to express my gratitude to the President of IJF Mr. Marius Vizer, for continuous support and confidence of IJF towards our Federation.

“I wish all participants a memorable stay in Zagreb and to all athletes – the best of luck!“

For the Croatian Judo Federation, the Grand Prix is actually the major event of the season and crowns a very good year, as the President of the Federation, Dr. Sanda Corak, received the ‘Best Development of a National Federation’ award at the IJF gala in Budapest on 27 August. On this occasion Dr. Corak declared: “This is a great honour to receive this award. For us 10 years ago it seemed impossible but we shared the same vision, team work, and had the strong support of the judo community. Thank you to IJF President Mr. Marius Vizer for always believing and supporting us and thank you to the judo family and friends.”

An Ideal Geographical Situation
The thousand-year-old town of Zagreb is located in the north of the country on the slopes of the Medvednica massif and next to the Sava river, at an altitude of about 122m above sea level. Its favorable geographical position in the south west of the Plain of Pannonia places it on the axes between Central Europe and the Adriatic Sea. The transport network, the great concentration of industries and scientific research have made Zagreb the economic center of Croatia. Zagreb is also the seat of government, administrative bodies and almost all ministries and is member of the European Union since July 1st 2013.

Croatia and in its long-form Republic of Croatia (in Croatian Hrvatska and Republika Hrvatska), is a southeastern European country that extends from the eastern extremity of the Alps, passing through the Pannonian Plains to the north-east, to the coast of the Adriatic Sea to the south, while the mountain range of the Dinaric Alps extends to the center. Croatia is surrounded by Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, making the Grand Prix of Zagreb an easy competition to access for many countries.

It is under a mild and sunny climate that the 295 athletes representing 48 countries will compete for the title of Zagreb Grand Prix champion throughout the weekend in the Dom Sportova venue (Trg Krešimira ?osi?a 11, Zagreb).



Use #JudoZagreb2017 to join in with the social media discussion


-48kg: Pareto’s comeback?
All the attention of the category will be on the return to competition of the Olympic champion Paula Pareto (ARG) who dedicated herself to her job as a doctor over the past months but who nevertheless continued to train for her comeback. Pareto will be confronted with the new generation of athletes who dream when thinking of Tokyo 2020. She is still motivated even if she has already checked all the boxes (world champion and Olympic champion) and that she is 31 years old.

Top seeded athletes
1. NIKOLIC Milica (SRB)
2. PARETO Paula (ARG)
4. CHIBANA Gabriela (BRA)
5. SIDEROT Maria (POR)
6. DIOGO Joana (POR)
7. POP Alexandra (ROU)
8. CHAKIR Aziza (MAR)

-52kg: Good time for Delgado?
With a tenth place in the world, Angelica Delgado (USA) represents one of the best chances of medals for the American delegation. Bronze medallist in Cancun last June, she came to Zagreb for a new place on the podium, with views on the final. 2015 European champion, Hungarian Pupp Reka, 2017 Pan American Champion Jessica PEREIRA (BRA) and France’s Astride Gneto will be her main rivals, while the Croatian public will have eyes only for Tena Sikic.

Top seeded athletes
1. DELGADO Angelica (USA)
2. PUPP Reka (HUN)
3. PEREIRA Jessica (BRA)
4. GNETO Astride (FRA)
5. SIKIC Tena (CRO)
7. JIMENEZ Kristine (PAN)
8. VALENTIM Eleudis (BRA)

-57kg: Top Seed for Stoll
In the -57kg category, it will be interesting to follow the course of the bronze medalist of the last world championships of Budapest, the British athlete Nekoda SMYTHE-DAVIS, who proved in Hungary that she had the international stuff. Seeded number two, behind the German Theresa Stoll, she could win several ranking places if she wins in Croatia. KARAKAS Hedvig (HUN) will also have to be followed as she remains on the disappointment of not being able to perform in her home country on the occasion of the worlds. Japan is also present with a young delegation whose performances must always be expected.

Top seeded athletes
1. STOLL Theresa (GER)
5. ILIEVA Ivelina (BUL)
6. KARAKAS Hedvig (HUN)
7. KAJZER Kaja (SLO)
8. CRUDE Tamires (BRA)

-63kg: Everything is possible
The discreet Amy Livesey (GBR), 5th in the World Ranking, is top seeded in Croatia. With three medals won to date on the world circuit, she could once again reach the podium, while Andreja Leski (SLO) bronze medalist in the 2015 Junior Worlds would like to continue her medal collection in the senior category. NABEKURA Nami, as all Japanese will have be to closely followed, as well as Lucy Renshall (GBR). Surprises are not impossible in this very open category.

Top seeded athletes
2. LESKI Andreja (SLO)
5. BARRIOS Anriquelis (VEN)
7. AKIYAMA Leilani (USA)
8. HERRMANN Vivian (GER)

-70kg: Big hope for Croatia
Certainly, big hopes of medals for the host nation rest on the solid shoulders of Barbara Matic (CRO) who is none other than the holder of the title here in Croatia. But for a second title in a row, she will have to face with Anka POGACNIK (SLO), Anna Bernholm and/or Roxane TAEYMANS. France’s Fanny Estelle POSVITE could take advantage of a fierce fight between the other competitors to take the leadership on the category.

Top seeded athletes
1. MATIC Barbara (CRO)
4. TAEYMANS Roxane (BEL)
5. TIMO Barbara (BRA)
6. POSVITE Fanny Estelle (FRA)
8. MALTSEVA Valentina (RUS)

-78kg: Camara’s turn?
Second in Tbilisi and third in Paris at the start of the season, Sama Hawa Camara (FRA) could this time take advantage of the absence of her teammate Madeleine Malonga to climb on top of the podium. But one must not forget the presence of the experienced Luise MALZAHN (GER) and Yahima RAMIREZ (POR) who are always dangerous or that of the Japanese Hamada Shori who already has two bronze medals in Grand Slams under her belt.

Top seeded athletes
1. CAMARA Sama Hawa (FRA)
2. HAMADA Shori (JPN)
3. LEON Karen (VEN)
4. MALZAHN Luise (GER)
5. SHMELEVA Antonina (RUS)
6. RAMIREZ Yahima (POR)

+78kg: Tenth medal for Ceric?
A medal at this Grand Prix would mean the tenth medal for Larisa Ceric (BIH) on the international circuit. By being top seeded, she puts all the chances on her side to achieve this symbolic figure. Santa PAKENYTE, INAMORI Nami (JPN) and Ksenia CHIBISOVA (RUS) are among the other favorites in the category.

Top seeded athletes
1. CERIC Larisa (BIH)
5. SUTALO Ivana (CRO)
7. KARPATI Emese (HUN)
8. BUESSOW Kristin (GER)

-60kg: Papinashvili Favorite
Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO) is undeniably part of the big favorites of the competition in -60kg and on paper, he seems to possess a certain advantage over his contenders. However, the Russian team is in ambush with two athletes, while the Turkish athletes are always good in this category.

Top seeded athletes
3. OGUZOV Albert (RUS)
4. OZLU Bekir (TUR)
5. MCKENZIE Ashley (GBR)
6. DIAZ Adonis (USA)
7. KABA Ahmet Sahin (TUR)
8. TRBOVC Matjaz (SLO)

-66kg: Davaï Russia?
Once again the Russians came in force to Zagreb, and Yakub SHAMILOV will be the favorite of the category. With the first four seeds standing within a few points in the world ranking, there will probably be some changes at the end of the day.

Top seeded athletes
2. OLEINIC Sergiu (POR)
3. KATZ Nathan (AUS)
4. ARDANOV Anzaur (RUS)
5. VIERU Denis (MDA)
6. SANDAL Sinan (TUR)

-73kg: Golden Orujov!
The top seed of the category is none other than the world number two, Rustam Orujov (AZE), silver medalist of the Olympic Games and also of the world championships in Budapest. To go back to competition only a few weeks after such an event is not easy, but there is no doubt that Orujov will show the full extent of his talent. Tommy Macias (SWE), Alexander Turner (USA) and Uali KURZHEV (RUS) will be followed closely.

Top seeded athletes
1. ORUJOV Rustam (AZE)
2. MACIAS Tommy (SWE)
3. TURNER Alexander (USA)
5. BARBOSA Eduardo (BRA)
6. DELPOPOLO Nicholas (USA)
7. CHAINE Guillaume (FRA)
8. REITER Lukas (AUR)

-81kg: Time for Hungary?
Ungvari Attila (HUN), like his teammate KARAKAS Hedvig, will also want to win a medal here in Croatia, while in his category many other athletes can claim a place on the podium. The experience of Emmanuel Lucenti (ARG) can lead him far. The same will apply to Joachim Bottieau (BEL) for example in a category in which prognostics are difficult.

Top seeded athletes
1. UNGVARI Attila (HUN)
2. LUCENTI Emmanuel (ARG)
3. HATTON Jack (USA)
4. BOTTIEAU Joachim (BEL)
5. DRUZETA Dominik (CRO)
6. KOUROS Anthony (AUS)
8. MOUTII Achraf (MAR)

-90kg: KUKOLJ for gold?
Toth Krisztian (HUN) is a scarecrow in the -90kg category and if he has recovered from his world championships, he may well find his way back to gold in Croatia. Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB), who already has two Grand Slam victories and a total of 8 medals on the world circuit, and who is top seed in Zagreb, may well prevent the Hungarian from enjoying the most precious metal. The two Azeri MEHDIYEV and SAFGULIYEV will also have to be closely followed while Magomed MAGOMEDOV (RUS) remains dangerous.

Top seeded athletes
1. KUKOLJ Aleksandar (SRB)
2. TOTH Krisztian (HUN)
3. MEHDIYEV Mammadali (AZE)
5. MAGOMEDOV Magomed (RUS)
6. BROWN Colton (USA)
7. TEMESI Sebastian (AUS)

-100kg: What a category!
Without a doubt, the category of -100kg is one of the most outstanding of the weekend with names such as Elkhan MAMMADOV, 2013 World Champion, Elmar GASIMOV, Olympic silver medalist, or Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) recent silver medallist at the worlds in Budapest. Martin Pacek (SWE), Jorge FONSECA (POR) and Rafael BUZACARINI (BRA) could also appear on the podium at the end of the day.

Top seeded athletes
1. MAMMADOV Elkhan (AZE)
2. GASIMOV Elmar (AZE)
5. PACEK Martin (SWE)
6. FONSECA Jorge (POR)
7. BORODAVKO Jevgenijs (LAT)

+100kg: the King Riner is here
He is now used to it, Teddy Riner will close the Croatian judo festival and he will probably be the most awaited judoka by the public and by the media on Sunday. It is always something extraordinary when the French giant makes the trip and once again the show will be at the rendezvous on Sunday at the ‘Dom Sportova’. The question is: who will take the other medals? It is not an affront to other athletes to ask this question, as Teddy Riner’s margin seems so important. However, a competition always remains full of uncertainties and each match will have to be played to the maximum and it will be necessary to follow every minute of the competition, and… in judo everything is possible.

Top seeded athletes
1. RINER Teddy (FRA)
2. KOKAURI Ushangi (AZE)
5. CULUM Zarko (SRB)
6. HEGYI Stephan (AUT)
8. HARMEGNIES Benjamin (BEL)

10:00 Preliminaries on two mats
17:00 Final block on one mat
Women: -48kg, -52kg, -57kg
Men: -60kg, -66kg

10:00 Preliminaries on two mats
17:00 Final block on one mat
Women: -63kg, -70kg
Men: -73kg, -81kg

11:00 Preliminaries on two mats
17:00 Final block on one mat
Women: -78kg, +78kg
Men: -90kg, -100kg, +100kg

Location: Sports Hall “Dom Sportova”
Photos: © IJF Media Team by Marina Mayorova and Nicolas Messner