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Iranian World Champion Mollaei in tough pool in Guangzhou
14 Dec 2018 10:20
At the IJF World Masters in Guangzhou, world number one Mollaei has made the 2018 season his own with a sensational year that has made him a household name in the sport and a hero in Iran.
In his category U81kg, Mollaei proved to show creative and strong innovative judo, but his style also has certain risks. Mollaei failed to medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and The Hague Grand Prix, where he lost in the first round. As World Ranking leader and World Champion, there’s a lot at stake and there are enough rivals who want to take over the crown.
Mollaei missed the podium at the season-opening Tunis Grand Prix in January before winning the Düsseldorf Grand Slam a month later. The Iranian ace took bronze at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam but finished short of a medal finish at the Antalya Grand Prix. The highly-active U81kg judoka took silver at the Asian Games before his sublime world title win. Mollaei finished fifth at the Masters last year and should offer a stronger title challenger in 2018 as the reigning world champion.
Mollaei will have to face Takeshi Sasaki in the first round, the winner of the Grand Slam Osaka, but the lead on World number two De Wit is too big to swop the number one position.
Dutchman Frank de Wit who won bronze at the Masters last year in St. Petersburg is one of them, but so far Mollaei was too powerful for him. De Wit is opposed to Eduardo Santos (BRA) and in one pool with the surprising Turkish Vedat Albayrak, aka Roman Moustopoulos won bronze at the 2016 Masters in Guadalajara (MEX). He stepped over successfully from Greece to Turkey and surprised with a world bronze medal.
Last year’s winner of the Masters Khasan Khalmurzaev will face Ivaylo Ivanov who won the Grand Prix in The Hague and seems to be back at his old level. But the Olympic Champion is still a big leap for the Bulgarian.
Belgian Matthias Casse will face Sagi Muki of Israel who caught the talented Belgian fighter twice this year. Muki never fought Mollaei nor Sasaki.
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Gabriele Melegari (ITA)
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