Russia’s premier judo competition, the Tyumen Grand Slam, has become the focal point of the sport this week as the world’s elite judoka prepare for the final IJF competition before August’s World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The second edition of the Tyumen Grand Slam will illuminate the Siberian region from 18-19 July at the Tyumen Athletic Centre as judoka bid to make one last push towards the last World Championships before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Tyumen, which is located on the Tura River 2,500 kilometres east of Moscow, was the first Russian settlement in Siberia and has a population of 600,000 people. The city is a hub of judo and this weekend hosts 312 judoka from 53 nations.
Mr. Sergey SOLOVEYCHIK (centre) made the IJF address
The official draw took place at the West Siberian Innovation Centre (WSIC) on Friday afternoon as the delegations discovered who their athletes will stand opposite to in the preliminary rounds.
Mr. Sergey SOLOVEYCHIK, IJF Vice President, made the opening address on behalf of the International Judo Federation.
Mr. Sergey KUSHKOV (centre) spoke on behalf of the local organising committee
"Dear friends, colleagues and guests, I welcome you to the prestigious event of the Tyumen Grand Slam 2015. As one of the top events on the World Judo Tour, I would like to thank all 53 participating nations for their participation and support as they have sent their best athletes here to take part in the tournament.
"I would like to express my gratitude to the Governor of Tyumen, Mr. Vladimir YAKUSHEV and the Russian Judo Federation for their support and I wish good luck to everyone in Tyumen.”
Mr. Sergey KUSHKOV, President of the Tyumen Judo Federation, said: "Dear colleagues, guests and officials, it is my pleasure to see you all here for the second edition of the Tyumen Grand Slam. This is a great honour for the region and especially as seven judoka from Tyumen will take part in the event. There will be a lot of excitement and I wish you all a successful competition.”
At the press conference, Russian General Team Manager and IJF Hall of Famer Mr. Ezio Gamba said: "For us at the draw we look for our athletes to be among the top seeds, then we know we are on track. We have entered many judoka with four per weight category and if they are well placed for the draw in terms of their seeding then they are in a good position.
"i don't want to single any judoka out, as we have a very large team here and I am confident that they can all compete well and everyone is very excited to see the Russian team compete in Tyumen."
The Official Draw of The Tyumen Grand Slam 2015
Click here to view the ongoing Olympic qualification list
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Official draw: http://www.ippon.org/gs_rus2015.php
Live stream on Ippon TV: http://www.ippon.tv
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Official event hash tag: #JudoTyumen2015
Baku Grand Slam winner Monica UNGUREANU (ROU) will look to win the second Grand Slam of the year and will start her campaign on Saturday as the top seed. Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Valentina MOSCATT (ITA) won bronze in Tyumen a year ago while 19-year-old European Games and World Judo Masters bronze medallist Irina DOLGOVA (RUS) and Tbilisi Grand Prix silver medallist Julia FIGUEROA (ESP) are also focused on gracing the podium in Russia.
Julia FIGUEROA (ESP) said: "I am confident about the weekend and I am excited to fight here with the World Championships coming up soon.”
Romania also occupy pole position in the -52kg category as Andreea CHITU (ROU) – who has finally ousted double world champion Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS) as the new world number one – could well eclipse the field in Tyumen. World Judo Masters bronze medallist Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) and European Games bronze medallist Mareen KRAEH (GER) will both be among the leading candidates to challenge CHITU in Siberia.
Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) said: "I feel good, I have trained well in Spain at the camp, but the most important thing for me is that I will feel good in the World Championships.”
World Judo Masters bronze medallist Corina CAPRIORIU (ROU) maintains her country’s impressive billing with three top seeds from the three lightest women’s categories. World bronze medallist Sanne VERHAGEN (NED) and Nekoda SMYTHE DAVIS (GBR), who won the London European Cup last weekend, will be out to add to their growing resumes.
Nekoda SMYTHE DAVIS (GBR) said: "I'm feeling good, I am in good shape and I'm confident I can take a result at this level now following my silver from the Baku Grand Slam. It is going to be tough tournament no doubt as this is the first Grand Slam to carry 100% qualification points towards the Olympic Games.”
World silver medallist and 2013 world champion Yarden GERBI (ISR) will believe that she is primed for a tilt at her third straight world medal if she can win in Russia. GERBI, who won bronze at the European Games in June, will face opposition from double world bronze medallist Anicka VAN EMDEN (NED) and Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist Edwige GWEND (ITA). VAN EMDEN has won a phenomenal 11 Grand Slam medals to date but never gold and is in a relaxed mood ahead of the event.
Anicka VAN EMDEN (NED) said: "I've been training in Castelldefels, getting in shape for the World Championships. I've been out for a while with injury, so I'm going to use the Tyumen Grand Slam just to get back into it and go from there."
Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix winner Bernadette GRAF (AUT) is out to win her second IJF event in a row and can expect to be pushed by judoka such as the ever-improving Szaundra DIEDRICH (GER) who is doing a stellar job of keeping pace with her teammate Laura VARGAS KOCH (GER) who will not be present in Tyumen. Returning two-time Grand Slam winner TACHIMOTO Haruka (JPN) – who won the All Japan Championships in April - will see action along with the Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist Kelita ZUPANCIC (CAN), who won Pan American Games gold on Monday.
TACHIMOTO Haruka (JPN) said: "Despite struggles, I have been trying to do my best, setting the Rio 2016 Olympics as my goal. It's the same for this competition. I'll just do my best and see what happens.”
European Games silver medallist Luise MALZAHN (GER) is the top seed in the -78kg category and will hope that status will give her the platform to gain one last rankings boost before the World Championships. World Judo Masters silver medallist Natalie POWELL (GBR) - who started judo aged 8 at Irfon Judo Club in Builth Wells, Wales – should be in contention alongside names such as European Games winner MarhindeVERKERK (NED) and Baku Grand Slam winner Guusje STEENHUIS (NED).
Natalie POWELL (GBR) said: "My goals for this year are to win Grand Slam and Grand Prix medals to accumulate enough points to qualify in the world’s top four for Rio 2016. The medal I really want this year is at the World Championships.”
World Judo Masters winner YU Song (CHN) has won her last three competitions to propel herself towards an imminent world title bid. YU won the Tbilisi Grand Prix and Asian Championships before topping the podium at the invite-only Masters and is now the heavyweight front-runner. World Judo Masters bronze medallist Franziska KONITZ (GER) and African champion Nihel CHEIKH ROUHOU (TUN) will both be seeded on Sunday as members of the category’s top eight in the world.
Franziska KONITZ (GER) said: "In Baku at the European Games, it was not a perfect day for me, I was sick and injured, and I lost my first fight. It was a bitter defeat. Now in Tyumen and then at the World Championships I will show again my good performance this year and show that I'm one of the best in the world.”
Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix winner and former world silver medallist DASHDAVAA Amartuvshin (MGL) is hoping a top draw performance this weekend will spur him on to world glory this summer. The 27-year-old is the top seed in the men’s lightest weight category which also features the long-serving Ludwig PAISCHER (AUT), teenage Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist TSAI Ming Yen (TPE) and former European bronze medallist Ashley MCKENZIE (GBR) along with All Japan Championships winner KIDO Shinji (JPN).
Ashley MCKENZIE (GBR) – who turned 26 on Friday - said: "I feel good and fit and I want to see where I am at the moment. I feel tidy from winning gold at the British Open, but that is not going to stop me from trying to perform. I need a good performance to earn a selection for the World Championships.”
Top seed Colin OATES (GBR) took silver at the Russian Grand Slam in 2013 and won the same colour medal at the Baku Grand Slam this year. The 32-year-old Brit is set to bolster his place in the world’s top eight this weekend with Astana in mind while Asian champion TAKAJO Tomofumi (JPN), Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Sugoi URIARTE (ESP) and World Judo Masters bronze medallist here in 2013, Golan POLLACK (ISR), provide a taster of the depth in the plentiful -66kg field.
Colin OATES (GBR) said: "I'm feeling good and it's nice to be the top seed for the event. I had a disappointing European Games and it will be nice to put that behind me. I have had a silver here in Russia before and it would be great to stick some more ranking and Olympic qualifying points on the board before the Worlds.”
Mongolia will lead the -73kg category into action in Tyumen as Olympic bronze medallist SAINJARGAL Nyam-ochir (MGL) is the number one seed and former world champion KHASHBAATAR Tsagaanbaatar (MGL) is the second seed. Reigning Tyumen Grand Slam runner-up Marcelo CONTINI (BRA) will be confident of a repeat performance while double world bronze medallist Musa MOGUSHKOV (RUS) should figure for the hosts.
Marcelo CONTINI (BRA) said: "I'm feeling prepared, the Grand Slam will be an important competition for me. I hope to achieve a good result. Last year I won a silver medal, so this year, I think a gold medal would really be perfect.”
Olympic bronze medallist Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER (CAN) enters the second Grand Slam of the year on the back of a straightforward victory at the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix. The classy Canadian shares the category with a wealth of talent as Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Sven MARESCH (GER), European Games bronze medallist Alexander WIECZERZAK (GER) and Pan American Games winner Travis STEVENS (USA) are among the leading names in Tyumen.
Alexander WIECZERZAK (GER) said: "Over the past few weeks we’ve had a busy programme: From the European Games to the training camp in Spain and three days later we are here at the Grand Slam in Tyumen. I focus on the World Championships in Astana. There's no need to say that I will give my best on Sunday, but the focus is definitely on Astana.”
Baku Grand Slam winner BAKER Mashu (JPN) is the top seed in the -90kg category and has world honours is his sights next month in Kazakhstan The 20-year-old is a Grand Slam specialist with two gold and two bronze medals already to his name and is widely expected to star in Tyumen. Baku Grand Slam bronze medallists Joakim DVARBY (SWE) and Walter FACENTE have the quality to challenge while Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix winner and Worlds hopeful LKHAGVASUREN Otgonbaatar (MGL) can build on his home triumph.
BAKER Mashu (JPN) said: "I am looking forward to fighting in Tyumen having won the Baku Grand Slam. We look forward to the world stage but first we look to do well at the Grand Slam this weekend.”
Olympic bronze medallist Dimitri PETERS (GER) and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam runner-up Karl-Richard FREY (GER) are the number one and two seeds respectively as their nail-biting battle for the one place in Rio looks set to go down to the wire. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze medallist and African champion Lyes BOUYACOUB (ALG) could come through for Algeria while Baku Grand Slam winner Adlan BISULTANOV (RUS) will be tasked with guiding the home team to the top of the -100kg podium.
Lyes BOUYACOUB (ALG) said: "I am in Kazakhstan for preparation of the World Championships for one year. I feel ready for Tyumen and to raise my performance level in Russia.”
Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Faicel JABALLAH (TUN) will aim to live up to his top seed status as Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner Daniel NATEA (ROU) and teammate Vladut SIMIONESCU (ROU) are equipped to mount a serious title tilt as the number two and number three seeds respectively. Astana Grand Prix bronze medallist Andre BREITBARTH (GER) and All Japan Championships winner HARASAWA Hisayoshi (JPN) will be tipped to be in medal contention.
Andre BREITBARTH (GER) said: "We had a good preparation in Castelldefels with many international fighters. To fight in Tyumen or rather in Russia has always been a great experience with a stunning atmosphere. Of course I want to fight for a medal, but it's also about to set a position in view of the World Championships."
10:00 Preliminaries on four mats
16:30 Opening ceremony
17:00 Final block on two mats
Women: -48kg, -52kg, -57kg, -63kg
Men: -60kg, -66kg, -73kg
10:00 Preliminaries on four mats
17:00 Final block on two mats
Women: -70kg, -78kg, +78kg
Men: -81kg, -90kg, -100kg, +100kg
Location: Tyumen Athletic Centre
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Photos © IJF Media by G. Sabau