The U81kg category is always one of the most anticipated and one that offers a great show. Once again, this was the case throughout the second day of competition in Tbilisi. Seed number one, Tato Grigalashvili (GEO) made the powder ignite right up until the semi-final. He found in his way the Belgian Sami Chouchi (BEL).
No doubt the Georgian thought that this would be a formality, but against all expectations, Chouchi sent Grigalashvili back to his studies, to find in the end another surprise, the Austrian Shamil Borchashvili, winner against world and Olympic medallist Antoine Valois-Fortier, also in the semi-final.
After only twelve seconds, Borchashvili took a very strong lead, when he scored a magnificent ippon that was logically changed to a waza-ari, based on the video. Maybe a little unfocussed or maybe simply because Chouchi was on fire the whole day, the Belgian caught his opponent with a shime-waza that left no chance for Borchashvili. With this important victory, Chouchi comes back into the race for Olympic qualification in Belgium, where Matthias Casse is his main rival. Casse, who was not competing in Georgia, remains the world number one though.
After the massacre of the preliminary phases, we found for a first bronze medal, Murad Fatiyev (AZE), without reference yet on the world circuit and the experienced Antoine Valois-Fortier (CAN), but due to an injury, the Canadian couldn't compete for another possible Canadian medal. Murad Fatiyev thus won the bronze medal.
To complete the podium Alan Khubetsov (RUS), winner of a prior grand slam, back in 2014 in Baku, was matched against Tato Grigalashvili (GEO), who finally won the bronze medal after a third penalty was given to Khubetsov for passivity. This is definitely not the medal Grigalashvili came here for, but this is an important medal nonetheless.