It was a strange feeling seeing the athletes with nose masks on the podium. We felt a smile but we couldn’t see it. The first day of the Grand Slam of Budapest delivered top winners like nothing happened for the last 8 months. Without the Hungarian fans it was a different atmosphere in the Laszlo Papp venue.
Distria Krasniqi (KOS) showed her power confirming the excellence of the Kosovar school, the victory in mastery of Amandine Buchard (FRA) and that no less significant of Jessica Klimkait (CAN) who dominated her category U57kg. Three gold medals for three strong nations in women's world judo.
In the men’s divisions men, things were more absolute, since Russia monopolised the first day with a full house of 4 Russian finalists. That team performance deserves to be highlighted. Judo is back but it doesn’t count for all athletes around the globe. The Italian team will feel that at most as their entire team wasn’t allowed to compete due to a positive corona test of four of the team members.
U48kg: Krasniqi powerful
To face an Olympic champion, for most, this is an uphill challenge that requires a stealing of oneself, but not in this case. Krasnqi is either fearless or the master of the poker face. Either way she produced stunning judo from a judo machine of a body and it was a privilege to watch her dismantle the whole category, including Pareto in the final.
Buchard focused like nothing happened
Switzerland brought all they had and left with a silver medal and a credible 5th place. Their campaign was only interrupted by current great names of the sport and a collection of work medals, held by Buchard, Bilodid and Chitu. The French eventual gold medalist proved again why she was the number 1 seed coming into the day, not dropping a single point. Amandine has clearly used her time in isolation well.
U57kg Klimkait dedicated to gold
Everywhere there was power; powerful throws, powerful strategy and an unwavering focus. -57kg was a contest sheet that would bring chills for any young judoka looking to join these ranks. They destroyed anyone showing weakness and capitalised on mistakes. Quite frankly this category was a majestic display of how physical training can enhance the chess of a judo match. Glorious!
U60kg: Russian men dominate
With the Russian Yago Abuladze and Robert Mshvidobadze onslaught capping the category, it was a day of variety and fun at -60kg. With Lutfillaev not making the podium, this tells us just how strong and vibrant a group it was. Lopes and Mkheidze fought with heart and desire from the very beginning to get the bronze medal and Lopes particularly also brought us edge-of-our-seat excitement, with dynamic escapes and chance successes of timing.
U66kg: Abdula Abdulzhalilov defeats Shamilov
Abdula Abdulzhalilov defeated Yamil Shamilov in their category U66kg. Russia clearly have laid down the gauntlet for men’s judo on the return to the World Judo Tour. The Russian men’s team domination was impressive and left just a small gap in our notes to acknowledge the great energy brought by Brazil’s Lima. His Catherine wheel of a throw for the bronze medal brought a collective gasp to the arena and he should be applauded for a day of ‘taking a chance’ that paid off with gold for Abdulzhalilov.