Georgia is looking forward to its maiden Grand Slam. For the first time that in Georgia a Grand Slam will be conducted. Exciting for the Georgian judo fans is the category U90kg with decision to be made. It will be race between Beka Gviniashvili and Lasha Bekauri who both won a medal in Doha and Tel Aviv. Gviniashvili is consistent, Bekauri the future, but Gviniashvili is far from burned out.
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On Friday the event starts in the beautiful Tbilisi. Coaches made a conscious decision to bring out the best athletes in Georgia, although the Japanese and Korean team will choose for Antalya as another startup of their team. Pandemic or not, when things are going well or worse, the Tbilisi World Judo Tour is the place to follow. This tine without fanatic Georgian fans as suggested in the great promotional video but we will need to imagine those. In Tashkent it immediately added value for the athletes to have fans on the tribune. Smiles on the athletes faces and interaction with cheering fans gave an even better image of the sport.
Georgian judo history
For over 30 years Tbilisi is the centre of Georgian judo. Since 2014 the World Cup status changed into the Grand Prix within the IJF World Judo Tour. Unfortunately cancelled last year, but in 2021 Tbilisi will strike back to corona with a Grand Slam status where more points and prize money will be divided among the 500 fighters that have registered for now.
Georgia is a country of warriors, whose identity has been forged in the steel of warfare and which is currently expressed through a judogi. The Georgian athletes are a mixture of seniority and youth, are always among the best, hunting medals and titles and their way of doing things is the pride of an entire country. Until recently, it suffered from a performance shortfall at the female level, which is being corrected in haste, as evidenced by the recent appearances of Eteri Liparteliani (U57kg) and Mariam Tchanturia (U70kg) while also Tetiana Levytska-Shukvani is close to the medals in U52kg.
Winning in Tbilisi has the special flavour of tradition and sacrifice and that is why many have come. At first glance, when we analyse the entry list, numerous events come to mind, all different, but with a common denominator, the Tokyo Olympics. The Georgians are aiming to compete at the mixed team events on the last and eight day of the Olympic Games.
Outside the Georgian athletes there will be several international top stars in the starting grid.
There are several elaborate strategies and they all deserve attention. In other words, athletes like Ortíz or France’s world champion, Madeleine Malonga, have already qualified for Tokyo. However, they need to fight, measure their forces and study their adversaries.
Then there are those who choose tournaments surgically. In Tashkent, two weeks ago, the Japanese and Koreans swept everything away, showing that they are already ahead of the rest. They have not come to Georgia, on the other hand. Yes, there will be Mongolia, whose results in Uzbekistan were brilliant and they hope to continue on the winning path.
Training Camp in Tbilisi
These days judo is like a casino, but there are buffalo slots. It works like a free version of the game where people can see how it works in a real casino. The training camp in advance of the Grand Slam works that way. You can see who is committed, who is on form and sharp. Some will hide but the insiders will smell and feel the chances of the outsiders. Those you won’t count on.
It will be interesting to see for instance Zebeda Rekhviashvili back in Georgi. He is fighting for Serbia but he is on his way back. In the training camp you can see bits of the old Zebeda and we look forward to see him at work.
Then there are those looking to move up the rankings for a favourable draw in Tokyo. Others play cat and mouse, as if they did not care to be seeded or as if they wanted to mislead, like Teddy Riner (FRA), whose presence in a competition is always a mystery until the last moment.
Also there are plenty of internal fights like Gviniashvili and Bekauri but also Shavdatuashvili and Tatalashvili, certainly Grigalashvili and Maisuradze but the Georgians have decided to separate those internal fights in various events, so Maisuradze and Tatalashvili won’t fight in Georgia.
Foreign athletes enough in such battles like Spanish women Julia Figueroa and Laura Martínez Abelenda in the U48kg category and same for the French where Boukli and Clement battle. Gahie and Pinot in U70kg. In U78kg Wagner and Malzahn and Russians Babintseva and Shmeleva. In the category U81kg Alpha Djalo will be absent as he tested positive for covid-19.
You don’t wanna miss those battles this weekend. Stay tuned for more and estimate your chances.