Tokyo Judo Grand Slam kicks off in style to close the 2023 season

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520 judoka from 88 countries took to the tatami mats at the Tokyo Judo Grand Slam on Saturday in a bid for glory. Many athletes are eager to participate in the Japanese flagship event to go for gold and end the Judo World Tour in style, while testing their mettle.

However, this year is of extra importance, as the competitors aim to secure more vital ranking points in the race to qualify for the rapidly approaching Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

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Closing 2023 in top form

The male competitors were on form, each fighting tooth and nail to make their way through the tournament.

In the under 73kg category, Azerbaijan’s Hidayat Heydarov took the gold medal with a fantastic waza-ari in the final against Japan’s Soichi Hashimoto, securing him the win.

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It’s special fighting in Tokyo. I have never competed in the Grand Slam here before. I fought in the Tokyo World Championships and won a medal there. Winning a medal in Tokyo, in the final against a Japanese athlete, although I’ve lost to him many times (in the past), is such a special feeling.

Hidayat Heydarov
Azerbaijani Judoka, -73KG gold medalist

On the third step of the podium, stood Italy’s Manuel Lombardo and Georgia’s Giorgi Terashvili.

All Japan Judo Federation President, Shinichi Nakamura, awarded the medals.

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The under 81kgsline-up for Tokyo GS 2023 boasted no fewer than four World Champions: Matthias Casse from Belgium, Azerbaijan’s Saied Mollaei, Israeli Sagi Muki and current Olympic champion, Takanori Nagase from Japan. Though they were all drawn in separate pools, only Casse made it out of the group stages.

In the final, Matthias Casse was up against Korea’s Joonhwan Lee, who proved to be a tough challenger. However, a waza-ari score for the Korean ended the Belgian world number two’s hopes of standing at the top of the podium, while securing a third grand slam title for the 21-year-old

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In third place stood Somon Makhmadbekov from Tajikistan and Canada’s François Gauthier Drapeau.

-81Kgs winners awarded their medals

IJF General Treasurer, Naser Al-Tamimi, was on hand to award the medals.

Meanwhile, in the under 90kg category, under the watchful and enthusiastic eye of the home crowd, a huge ippon from Japan’s Sanshiro Murao won him the gold.

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Coming hot for the silver were Georgia’s **Luka Maisuradze**while bronze was earned by South Korea’s Donghan Gwak and Italy’s Christian Parlati.

Awarding the medals was IJF Education & Coaching Director, Mohammed Meridja.

Japan, Netherlands and Canada shine in the Women’s category

The tournament’s women proved to be just as intense and entertaining as their male counterparts in this year’s Tokyo Grand Slam.

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In the under 57kg class, Christa Deguchi from Canada scored a huge ippon in the final against Brazil’s Jessica Lima. Despite putting up a good show against the Canadian powerhouse, it was not enough for the twenty-six-year-old to reach the top.

However, for Deguchi, this latest victory marks the eighth Grand Slam title in her illustrious career.

She was joined on the podium by her compatriot Jessica Klimkait and Georgian judoka, Eteri Liparteliani, who both secured bronze medals.

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IJF Sport Director, Michael Tamura, awarded the medals.

When I was little, I used to run around upstairs (in the bleachers) and ask for signatures. But now, I’m on the athletes’ side and I signed a couple of autographs already. I hope that I can be someone’s dream.

Christa Deguchi
Canadian Judoka, -57kg gold medallist

In the over 78kg class, japan’s recently crowned junior world champion Arai Mao tore her way through the competition to reach the final.

Facing a much bigger opponent, France’s Lea Fontaine, the Japanese athlete dominated the match.  Fontaine had excelled in her earlier contests, defeating all of her previous opponents by ippon, all without picking up a single penalty. However, thanks to brilliant groundwork, Mao forced her French opponent into submission with an Ippon of her own.

Arai Mao dominates Lea Fontaine during GS final

In third place stood Saetbyeol Park from Korea and Raz Hershko from Israel.

Awarding the medals was IJF EC Member, Jean Luc Rouge.

And finally, in the under 70kg weight class, it was the Netherlands’ time to shine.

Sanne Van Dijke, the world’s number-one seed in her category and one of the most decorated athletes on the circuit, blasted her way to the final, where she faced Japanese rival, Shiho Tanaka.

Van Dijke already has a Masters title and two Grand Slam silver medals to her name so far this year. She had no problem converting this ranking to another medal in Tokyo, as she threw with a massive ura-nage in golden score to claim the top spot in the tournament.

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Taking home Bronze in their respective matches were Ai Tsunoda Roustant from Spain and individual Neutral Athlete, Taimazova Madina.

IJF Secretary General, Dr Lisa Allan presented the victors with their medals.

Team Japan does home proud

As expected, the Japanese team was in terrific form, taking home four medals at the end of the first day of competition: two gold and two silver.

And Judo legend Ono Shohei was on hand to sign autographs for his fans.

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After an amazing first day of intense competition, the top five medal rankings are:

In first place – Japan with four medals – two gold and two silver

In second place – Canada with one gold and one bronze

In third place– Republic of Korea with one gold and one bronze

In fourth place– Azerbaijan with one gold and one bronze

In fifth place– the Netherlands with one gold

Join us tomorrow for more incredible judo from Tokyo!

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