The Tbilisi Grand Prix got underway with five gold medals for the taking.
Brazil’s Rafaela Silva was the standout female athlete of the day. The 24-year-old, who struck gold on home soil at the Olympics last year, bounced back from her disappointing fifth place finish in Paris with a solid display.
Silva outclassed Mongolia’s Khulan Tseregbaatar in the opening round before carrying her momentum into the semi-finals with hard-fought win over Natalia Golomidova.
The Brazilian then locked horns with Irina Zabludina in the showpiece match. Silva got off to a strong start and looked in control but the Russian pulled off the shock of the day with a clinical juji-gatame for ippon.
“I think that from now on, it will be harder for me because I’m the Olympic champion and my rivals are trying extra hard to beat me,” explained Rafaela Silva. “I knew before going into this match that my opponent was good technically. She grabbed my arm and it was impossible for me to fend off her attack.”
Meanwhile local favourite Lukhumi Chkhvimiani was the standout male athlete of the day.
The Georgian, who was a clear underdog going into the competition, downed
Azerbaijan’s Sahib Asgarov in the opening round thanks to a well taken ippon before scoring a couple of waza-aris against Mongolia’s Amarbold Jagvaraldorj.
Chkhvimiani then battled it out with Uzbekistan’s Mukhriddin Tilovov for a place in the under 60 kilo final. It was a tense affair which was eventually settled by a superb ippon after six minutes and four seconds.
This result set up a thrilling final between two Georgians to the delight of the home crowd.
Top seeded athlete Amiran Papinashvili was expected to be in the showpiece match and he did not disappoint his fans.
After less than a minute in the final, Chkhvimiani was penalised with a first shido for passivity before finding his range with two stunning waza-aris, en route to a surprising triumph against the two-time Grand Slam winner.
The Georgian national anthem rang out again as Lasha Giunashvili reigned supreme in the under 66 kilo category.
The young sensation, who won a bronze medal at the Baku Grand Slam earlier this year, stunned Mongolia’s Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj who was penalised for passivity.
The bronze medals were won by Brazil’s Charles Chibana and Yakub Shamilov of Russia.
Koyama and Buchard strike gold
In the women’s under 48 kilo class, Brazil’s Stefannie Arissa Koyama edged out Ukraine’s Maryna Cherniak thanks to a reverse sided tsuri-komi-goshi.
France’s Amandine Buchard held her nerve to down Erika Miranda in the under 52 kilo final with a clinical waza-ari. The bronze medals were won by Portugal’s Joana Ramos and Belarus’ Darya Skrypnik.