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Lasha Shavdatuashvili hopes to shine at home Grand Prix
31 Mar 2018 07:10
The venue for the Grand Prix in Tbilisi will be packed with men mainly to watch men. Women’s judo hasn’t developed very well yet in Georgia, but there’s enough to look forward to. Still the men set the tone for Georgia and on the second day Lasha Shavdatuashvili is one of the men to watch. He knows and was special guest at the draw for this Grand Prix on Thursday.
London 2012 Olympic champion and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO) is one of the most famed Georgian judoka of all time. The world number five won the Olympics at the age of 20 in his first full year on the senior stage and won bronze at the category above four years later. Shavdatuashvili, 26, took silver at the World Judo Masters in December and the same colour medal at the Paris Grand Slam in February and is in a great position to launch his bid for a third consecutive Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020. Tashkent Grand Prix silver medallist Giyosjon Boboev (UZB) won here a year ago and the world number seven is back to defend his title knowing that there will be four Georgian representatives to contend with and opposition from all corners of the world. Ekaterinburg Grand Slam silver medallist Ferdinand Karapetian (ARM) has caught the eye in 2018 by winning back-to-back Grand Slam medals to move up to 18th place in the world and the Armenian is poised to be in medal contention on the Grand Prix stage this weekend.
World Judo Masters bronze medallist Alan Khubetsov (RUS) is eying a fifth Grand Prix gold medal when he takes to the tatami on Saturday. The world number four took silver a year ago but could have things all his own way this time around with Ekaterinburg Grand Slam bronze medallist Zebeda Rekhviashvili (GEO) looking like his toughest opponent. Rekhviashvili has won four Grand Slam medals and as many Grand Prix medals but is yet to register in the gold medal column. Agadir Grand Prix bronze medallist Anri Egutidze (POR) can expect a positive reaction from the crowd when his Georgian family name is announced and that could spur him on to win a second Grand Prix career medal. Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Nugzari Tatalashvili (GEO) moved up from U73kg last year and is gradually establishing himself with the pick of his results being the aforementioned return in France.
World champion Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) has returned from a training camp with her national team in Japan and is ready to win more gold on the IJF World Judo Tour. The seven-time Grand Prix winner eased to victory in Paris last month and could be even more dominant in Georgia. Four-time Oceania Championships winner Katharina Haecker (AUS) will be the number two seed and has all colours of Grand Prix honours except gold. The Rio 2016 Olympian managed to achieve the best result of her career last time out with silver at the Agadir Grand Prix and will be determined not to leave Tbilisi empty-handed. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam silver medallist Lucy Renshall (GBR) and Junior world bronze medallist Lubjana Piovesana (GBR) are two growing forces in this Olympic cycle while 19-year-old Mzia Beboshvili (GEO) can expect a rapturous ovation after her famous European Youth Olympic Festival win at home in Tbilisi in 2015 endeared her to the entire country.
Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Marie Eve Gahie (FRA) starts as the top seed in the -70kg category as she bids for her first IJF gold medal since 2016. The 21-year-old won the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam as a teenager with both of her Grand Prix wins also coming in 2016. World number four Gahie is a clear favourite for gold with the second seed being world number 22 Gemma Howell (GBR). London 2012 Olympian Howell, 27, took bronze at the Tunis Grand Prix and is a seven-time Grand Prix medallist but has never won gold. Former world number one Kelita Zupancic (CAN) won her last IJF medal over a year ago with silver at the 2017 Paris Grand Slam and has to establish some consistency on the circuit with the Olympic qualification phase looming. Düsseldorf Grand Slam bronze medallist Szaundra Diedrich (GER), Irish Open winner Megan Fletcher (IRI) and Hohhot Grand Prix bronze medallist Natascha Ausma (NED) could find a route onto the medal podium.
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