Preview Grand Slam Paris for men: low numbers
This weekend the Grand Slam of Paris will take place and it will be great to see the home crowd cheering for the French athletes. The French crowd understands quality judo and does appreciate foreign outperformers. Who will be the ones to watch. Oon Yeoh of JudoCrazy and JudoInside summarised the medal candidates among the 154 men, the lowest number of male participants that we have recorded in more than 25 recent years.
The top seed here is Karamat Huseynov (AZE). But the one to look out for is Ryuju Nagayama (JPN), who can't use his reverse seoi-nage anymore, and the Korean morote-seoi-nage specialist Lee Harim, who had done so well at the Portugal Grand Prix. Notably missing from this line up is the World No. 1 Yang Yung Wei (TPE).
The top seed is An Ba-Ul (KOR), who will want to do better here than he did in Portugal. Other top prospects are Vazha Margvelashivili (GEO), and the unpredictable Mongolian Bahkhuu Yondonperenlei. Notably missing are Denis Vieru (MDA), Manuel Lombardo (ITA), and the Japanese champs Hifumi Abe and Joshiro Nagayama. We will keep an eye on Yondonperenlei of Mongolia.
This is the strongest category with 31 athletes. The top seed is Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO). There are many top prospects here, including Tsogtbaatar Tsend-Ochir (MGL), Hidayat Heydarov (AZE), Rustam Orujov (AZE), Akil Gjakova (KOS) and of course, the Japanese one-handed sode expert, Soichi Hashimoto (JPN). Notably missing are An Changrim (KOR) who has retired and Shohei Ono (JPN), who is presumably taking a break. Tsogtbaatar Tsend-Ochir is defintely a key athlete in this weight category. Let's see how fit Shavdatuashvili is. Hashimoto is in one pool with Hidayet Heydarov and they now each-other very well. Hashimoto is the top favourite for us.
The top seed here is Tato Grigalashvili (GEO). Sharofiddin Boltaboev (UZB), Vedat Albayrak (TUR) and Sagi Muki (ISR) are all top challengers. Worth watching are Loic Pietri (FRA), who is making a comeback of sorts and Zebeda Rekhviashvili, formerly of Georgia but who is now fighting for Serbia. Notably missing are Takeshi Sakai (JPN), Saeid Mollaei (MGL) and World Champion Matthias Casse (BEL) who may have had his last event last week in combination with his current coach Mark van der Ham. Albayrak is the same pool for a quarter final with Sotowara. Grigalashvili should be able to make it to the final.
Davlat Bobonov (UZB) and Beka Gviniashvili (GEO) are two of the top prospects here. Also worth looking out for are Mihael Zgank (TUR) and Sanshiro Murao (JPN). Notably missing are Lasha Bekauri (GEO), Shoichiro Mukai (JPN) and Eduard Trippel (GER), the Olympic gold and silver medalists, respectively. We wonder if Shoichiro Mukai can make his move in this field. Anyone can be the winner in this field without real favourites. A match between Murao and Bobonov is interesting to watch... if it comes that far.
This remains a tremendously interesting category, perhaps the most attractive of this top event in Paris. Veteran campaigner Toma Nikiforov (BEL) is the top seed. His main challengers are Peter Paltchik (ISR) and Michael Korrel (NED). Worth paying attention to are Alexandre Iddir (FRA) and Asley Gonzalez, formerly of Cuba but now fighting for Romania. Notably missing are Arman Adamian (RUS), Shady El Nahas (CAN), Jorge Fonseca (POR) and Varlam Liparteliani (GEO), who has retired. Israelian Peter Paltchik may be aiming for some Olympic revenge and has a good experience in Paris, he has a good draw against Agbegnenou's brother Joris. The two Dutch Korrel and Catharina are in the same pool, juicy.
The top seed, and probably the most exciting player, is Kokoro Kageura (JPN). Challenging him is the exciting Kim Min-Jong (KOR) who can do drop techniques just like Kageura. There are many notable absentees: Tamerlan Bashaev (RUS), Lukas Krpalek (CZE), Inal Tasoev (RUS), Hisayoshi Harasawa (JPN) Guram Tushishvili (GEO) and of course, Teddy Riner (FRA). Without a doubt Kokoro Kageura is the favourite. Japan can win perhaps 7 gold medals in Paris and we don't hesitate to estimate them even a higher number.
None of the Japanese Olympic champions will be present in Paris.
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