The United Arab Emirates is the setting for the fourth IJF Grand Slam of the 2016 season from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 October and marks the return of a number of Rio 2016 Olympic medallists who will compete for the first time since Brazil.
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh (KAZ) will compete for the first time since the Games when she looks to claim her second Grand Slam title on day one in Abu Dhabi. The 24-year-old Kazakh judoka has former Mongolian teammate-turned-rival in ex-world champion Munkhbat Urantsetseg (MGL) for company in the category. Munkhbat lost her Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal contest to Kondo Ami (JPN) by a yuko to finish fifth and at 26 years old is now starting a third bid for Olympic honours having finished seventh at London 2012. World Judo Masters bronze medallist Julia Figueroa (ESP) will also be among those to keep tabs on at -48kg.
Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Angelica Delgado (USA) is the number one seed at a Grand Slam for the first time as the 25-year-old has the momentum to medal at this level for the first time. The Rio 2016 Olympian will be joined in action by London 2012 Olympian Kelly Edwards (GBR) who won the Glasgow European Open a fortnight ago after capturing a career-best bronze at the Zagreb Grand Prix. Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Tena Sikic (CRO) has been one of the top performers since the summer and will be expecting to win her second Grand Slam medal of the season after bronze in Tyumen.
World Judo Masters silver medallist Helene Receveaux (FRA) was overlooked for Rio 2016 in favour of London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Automne Pavia (FRA) who went on to finish seventh in Brazil. Receveaux, 25, will now compete for the first time since the Masters and could launch her bid for Tokyo 2020 by winning her first Grand Slam gold medal. Manon Durbach (LUX) won her country’s first Grand Prix medal last time out as she took silver in Uzbekistan and has now attracted national broadcasters from her country to Abu Dhabi.
European Championships silver medallist Kathrin Unterwurzacher (AUT) will be top seed at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam as she fights for the first time since finishing seventh at Rio 2016. The 24-year-old Austrian finished fifth at the World Judo Masters either side of the European Championships and Olympic Games and will be the favourite for -63kg gold. World Judo Masters silver medallist Juul Franssen (NED) will be confident of winning a second career Grand Slam medal after silver in Paris last year while Mariana Silva (BRA) returns to the IJF World Judo Tour after an unexpected fifth-place at Rio 2016.
Baku Grand Slam silver medallist Maria Portela (BRA) won this event when it was a Grand Prix in 2012 and is capable of topping a Grand Slam podium this time around. The double Olympian from Porto Alegre fell in the second round at her home Olympics and will look to bounce back with a medal-winning display this weekend as it remains to be seen if the battling Brazilian will commit to four more years. Junior European champion Marie Eve Gahie (FRA) is more than capable of opening her Grand Slam gold medal count this weekend as the 19-year-old is one of the most talented teenage judoka in the world. Former Cadet European Championship winner Katie-Jemima Yeats-Brown (GBR) is starting to fulfil her potential on the senior stage having won the Glasgow European Open two weeks ago and will be excited to make her Gland Slam bow in Abu Dhabi.
European Championships silver medallist Guusje Steenhuis (NED) started her road to Tokyo 2020 with a silver medal at the Zagreb Grand Prix. After being surprisingly left out of her country’s Rio 2016 team Steenhuis returned to action in Croatia and was left disappointed with silver but extended her medal-winning win to six consecutive events. Samsun Grand Prix winner Madeleine Malonga (FRA) and teammate Sama Hawa Camara (FRA) who won bronze at the Zagreb Grand Prix will both be contenders for France while Tyumen Grand Slam silver medallist Klara Apotekar (SLO) will be chasing successive Grand Slam medals.
Budapest Grand Prix winner Carolin Weiss (GER) took silver in Zagreb in September and should produce a similar result in Abu Dhabi. The former Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist is the top seed in the women’s heavyweight category which will be contested on the last day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Rio 2016 Olympian Maria Suelen Altheman (BRA) lost her opening contest at the Games as one of the worst performing members of the hosts’ 14-strong team. The Brazilian needs a much-improved performance on Sunday to restore the faith in her while Tashkent Grand Prix silver medallist Maryna Slutskaya (BLR) will be looking for back-to-back IJF World Judo Tour honours.