The Almaty Grand Prix 2016 came to a highly-charged finale on Sunday.
Kazakhstan’s annual leg of the IJF World Judo Tour featured the women’s under-78kg and over-78kg categories and the men’s under-90kg, under-100kg and over-100kg categories at the Sport Palace Baluan Sholak.
This open Grand Prix is the last chance saloon for many in their bid to qualify for the Summer Games in Rio.
France ended the tournament top of medal table with three gold medals and two bronze ahead of Georgia, who won two gold and two bronze. Cuba came third with a haul of two gold medals and one bronze.
Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Axel Clerget from France took full advantage of this final opportunity by gaining valuable points when he won gold in the under-90kg category against Asian Championships bronze medallist Xunzhao Cheng from China in the final.
Under-90kg final results1. CLERGET, Axel (FRA) 2. CHENG, Xunzhao (CHN) 3. ZGANK, Mihael (SLO) 3. MEHDIYEV, Mammadali (AZE) 5. ZHAKYPOV, Dauletkhan (KAZ) 5. BENAMADI, Abderrahmane (ALG) 7. BROWN, Colton (USA) 7. ABD EL AKHER, Hatem (EGY)
AxelClerget</a> médaille d'or au grand prix d'Almaty 2016 👏🏼😊 bravo -90kg <a href="https://t.co/uy5By6yzhO">pic.twitter.com/uy5By6yzhO</a></p>— vincent parisi (parisivincent) 15 May 2016
In the duel that was the under-100kg final, it was the former world champion Elkhan Mamadov from Azerbaijan who came out on top against Brazil’s Rafael Buzacarini.
Mamadov scored a waza-ari with seven seconds left from a combination as he spun his opponent, before finishing with an osoto-gari. The result meant his country won more gold medals in Almaty then they did at their home event, the Baku Grand Slam, one week ago.
Under-100kg final results
1. MAMMADOV, Elkhan (AZE)
2. BUZACARINI, Rafael (BRA)
3. MAHJOUB, Javad (IRI)
3. KURBONOV, Soyib (UZB)
5. CIRJENICS, Miklos (HUN)
5. ARMENTEROS, Jose (CUB)
7. BEN KHALED, Anis (TUN)
7. SAIDOV, Saidzhalol (TJK)
The Georgian national anthem rang out for Adam Okruashvili who topped the podium in the over-100kg category.
The 2015 European champion delivered on the Grand Prix stage in Almaty as he defeated Ushangi Kokauri from Azerbaijan. Okruashvili took the lead with a yuko with a fast ashi-waza move. The victory had extra spice as his adversary is also a native Georgian, but he jumped to fight to Azerbaijan.
Over 100kg final results1. OKRUASHVILI, Adam (GEO) 2. KOKAURI, Ushangi (AZE) 3. MATIASHVILI, Levani (GEO) 3. TAYEB, Mohammed Amine (ALG) 5. JABALLAH, Faicel (TUN) 5. EL SHEHABY, Islam (EGY) 7. SARNACKI, Maciej (POL) 7. TANGRIEV, Abdullo (UZB)
Zhehui Zhang clinched Chinese gold in the women’s -78kg category
The Asian Championships winner beat former Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Albina Amangeldijewa. The win did not go down well as her adversary, Amangeldijewa, is a local girl.
Zhang won with a yuko – the only score of the contest – to all but confirm her place at the Olympics where she will a serious medal threat.
Under 78kg final results1. ZHANG, Zhehui (CHN) 2. AMANGELDIYEVA, Albina (KAZ) 3. CASTILLO, Yalennis (CUB) 3. TURKS, Victoriia (UKR) 5. GALEONE, Assunta (ITA) 5. GIBBONS, Gemma (GBR) 7. RAMIREZ, Yahima (POR) 7. POGORZELEC, Daria (POL)
In the over-78kg category, Olympic champion Idalys Ortiz from Cuba laid the marker to defend her title this summer by taking a confidence-boosting win in the women’s heavyweight category.
World number two Ortiz, 26, who was possibly wearing her gold backpatch as the London 2012 winner for the final time, defeated European champion Kayra Sayit from Turkey on shido penalties in a tentative final.
Over-78kg final results
1. ORTIZ, Idalys (CUB)
2. SAYIT, Kayra (TUR)
3. MOJICA, Melissa (PUR)
3. CERIC, Larisa (BIH)
5. KIM, Minjeong (KOR)
5. PAKENYTE, Santa (LTU)
7. ISSANOVA, Gulzhan (KAZ)
7. ODKHUU, Javzmaa (MGL)
Surprise of the day
The surprise of the day came when the 30th seed from China, Xunzhao Cheng, took out the top seed Mammadali Mehdiyev from Azerbaijan on the way to the final and qualification for the Olympic Games.
The underdog defeated the Samsung Grand Prix silver medallist Mehdiyev with a thunderous osoto-gari for ippon which sparked huge celebrations.
The 25 year old’s final flourish means he can expect to compete for his country in Rio with greater certainty.
Throw of the day
The throw of the day was made by Levani Matiashvili of Georgia against Faicel Jaballah. The Georgian heavyweight sent Jaballah flying with a textbook Drop Seo Nage.
In his semi final match Matiashvilli lost to compatriot Adam Okruashvili, who eventually went on to win gold.