398 athletes from 68 nations kick-off for the Grand Prix in Samsun on Friday. Of course a big team from Turkey with 52 athletes will compete and the eyecatchers are the women fighting at Day 1 U48kg where Dilara Lokmanhekim and Ebru Sahin will fight for the top positions. Both are potential Olympic participants for Turkey, but only one can go. They are ranked closely, Lokmanheim at 13, Sahin at 14 in the latest Olympic Ranking. Lokmanhekim and Sahin are separated in two pools, but they can meet in the semi final.
A same situation for women +78kg with Kayra Sayit, last week’s winner in Georgia and Belkis Kaya both heavyweights closely ranked and they are in the same pool B together.
In the men ‘s division Turkey have Bekir Ozlu and Ahmet Kaba U60kg and Sinan Sandal U66kg, he won bronze last week in Tbilisi. U73kg Hasan Vanlioglu has to gain some points to get closer to qualify, but he has a good draw and should be able to gain more points.
Furthermore in Samsun: a strong team from Azerbaijan is expected with Orkan Safarov as first seeded athlete U60kg. Nijat Shikhalizada is seeded first U66 and Elmar Gasimov is first U100kg.
Also a strong team from Brazil with Victor Penalber as highest ranked athlete U81kg and Tiago Camilo is separated from last week’s runner-up in Tbilisi Marcus Nyman of Sweden. Also in this category, non seeded Ushangi Margiani (GEO) in his new category U90kg and guys who are in shape such as Ciril Grossklaus (SUI), Ahmet Efemgil of Turkey and Spanish talent Nikoloz Sherazadishvili who captured bronze last week in his second home town Tbilisi.
Teddy Riner will be fighting +100kg to pick up some rhythm in his first event of the year. Last year she started in May with the Masters as first event.
Furthermore Olympic Champion Sarah Menezes is starting U48kg and with the Turkish ladies and Kazachstan’s Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh they are the favourites to capture gold.
The French are strong with Annabelle Euranie starting U52kg as best seeded player and a nice battle is expected U57kg between Automne Pavia and Helene Receveaux U57kg, it could become the final. Back in the scene in this category is Sanne Verhagen who tore her hamstring last year in June. With the two French, Miryam Roper and Sabrina Filzmoser enough experience to expect the best judo.
Austria will have Kathrin Unterwurzacher again as favourite, last week decorated with gold, this week in competition with 28 women in the ‘best-manned’ category.
Tashkent silver medallist Esther Stam (GEO) is making her comeback after a neck injury, but she will have to face Sally Conway (GBR). Another former Dutch woman is her first opponent: Turkish champion Merivan Tankos. Maria Portela of Brazil is greedy to find her shape, she is expected to shine in August on home soil, but some extra confidence would suit. Last week’s finalist Fanny Estelle Posvite is among the gold medal favourites.
It’s clear that the French can win almost each category with Andrey Tcheumeo as ace U78kg, although +78 will be tough for Marine Erb with three Turkish heavyweights and both strong Ukrainian women Iaromka and Kindzerska in the field, German Kuelbs and Weiss and Rochele Nunes for Brazil.