A small but strong Japanese team have arrived in Kazan for the Grand Slam. Team Japan has made Kazan an important step in their programme, refining the preparation of their athletes, since three of their selected competitors for the Games, Tonaki Funa (-48kg), Abe Uta (-52kg) and Arai Chizuru (-70kg) will be in action in Russia.
Arai Chizuru (JPN) will be fighting for gold U70kg and seems to be able to win, if the interruption due to the cessation of competitions for several months in 2020, did not disrupt her preparation too much. Preparing for the Olympic Games when you are the host country is never easy. Japan will have one guaranteed athlete in each weight class, but not having the pressure of qualifying and, on the other hand, having the pressure to perform at home, is complicated to deal with, especially when the whole programme has been turned upside down due to the global health crisis. There is a lot of powerplay from the Japanese women with such a strong delegation in Kazan.
U48kg we don’t see a serious threat for Funa Tonaki U48kg until the semi finals. Perhaps Israel’s Shira Rishony or Spanish Laura Abelenda Martinez. The better opposition comes from the other half of the table with Shirine Boukli of France and Irina Dolgova. One of the two might face Tonaki and for us the French undefeated Boukli is the favourite.
Is there any one fighting U52kg would hold off Abe Uta from the gold? It will be interesting to see her fighting against the experienced multiple European Champion Andreea Chitu (ROU). In fact there is no one of her level.