Erkhembayar Battogtokh claims gold in Mongolian final U66kg
What the Japanese won't be able to say is that they had jetlag in Mongolia. What they had was the bad luck of facing better prepared rivals. What promised to be a first day of the Ulaanbaatar Grand Slam with the Japanese anthem in multicast, ended with the debacle of several of the top favourite Japanese competitors, the rise of the IJF representatives, pleasant surprises from Africa and South America and an overall impressive performance of the Mongol Team.
When the ingredients are correct, the recipe cannot go wrong. Starting with a dedicated public, a modern and welcoming stadium and some judoka eager to perform at their best level, this first day of competition was of a very high standard, with the first Olympic qualification points being distributed. In Paris 2024, those points will count for only 50%, but this can already make the difference when the final calculation will come. Today was a day of sport, a day of friendship and unity around the judo values. The best won and that is all that matters.
Everyone was awaiting the return of Denis Vieru (MDA) to the tatami impatiently, as the judo produced by the world bronze medallist is always spectacular and particularly technical.
After the first rounds, we could see him struggling in the quarter-finals against Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (MGL) who pushed him to golden score, where it took a flash of genius for Vieru to win. In the semi-final Sod-Erdene Gunjinlkham was another great opponent against whom this time Vieru did not find the solution. Eliminated, he found himself in a position to win bronze only.
The final thus opposed two Mongolian athletes, Sod-Erdene Gunjinlkham and Erkhembayar Battogtokh, who earlier had a victory against Baruch Shmailov (ISR). This performance of the local athletes illustrates perfectly the very good behaviour of the Mongolian delegation in front of their public and in front of the president H.E. Khaltmaa Battulga, present since the very first minutes of the competition.
What is guaranteed is that both athletes will climb the World Ranking List as Gunjinlkham was number 118 and Battogtokh number 63. A little more than one minute was necessary for Battogtokh to produce a state-of-the-art ura-nage for a clear ippon that pleased the whole crowd. The victory for Mongolia was sure, but watching it live in such a style is the cherry on the cake, a cake that was very tasty today for Mongolia.
In the first match for a bronze medal, Yago Abuladze (IJF), 2021 world champion, faced Walide Khyar (FRA), the only French representative still in contention for a place of honour. 14 seconds, this is what it took for Abuladze to score a massive ippon after a massive ura-nage attempt from Khyar. The latter probably thought he had done the most difficult part when he sent Abuladze to the ceiling, but he couldn't really turn under the centre of gravity of his opponent, who hooked his leg for a ko-soto-gake and a landing flat on the back for Khyar. Bronze medal goes to Yago Abuladze.
For the third time of the day Denis Vieru (MDA) was opposed to a Mongolian athlete, Baskhuu Yondonperenlei, this time for a place on the podium. Yondonperenlei is known for being rough and Vieru knew it. More active than his opponent he seemed to be in control, especially after Yondonperenlei was penalised twice, but just before golden score Vieru was also sanctioned twice. The last shido could make the difference and it did as Vieru was penalised a third time, for stepping out of the competition area. Bronze medal for Baskhuu Yondonperenlei.