Zagreb ushered in an epic new era of Judo, as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovič, opened the first IJF World Tour event since the Tokyo Olympics, alongside the President of the International Judo Federation, Mr. Marius Vizer, and IJF Education Director, Dr. Sandra Corak.
And it was Mr. Marius Vizer who awarded the first Grand Prix Gold Medal of the new era to under 48kg class Champion Blandine Pont of France.
With a whole host of exciting new youngsters, it was the experienced Paris Grand Slam Champion Denis Vieru from Moldova who stepped forward at under 66kg class to become our man of the day.
On his route to the final, he executed his favourite technique, Tai Otoshi, with ease. There he displayed the great range of his Judo, turning over his Russian opponent into a hold down to secure the Gold medal.
Mr. Florin Daniel Lascau, Head Referee Director of the IJF awarded Vieru his Gold medal.
“I’m a master of Tai Otoshi," said Vieru. "My legs are very fast and light. It’s the most important technique for me. I feel very good doing it!”
There was more French success as 2012 Olympic Bronze Medallist Priscilla Gneto made an incredible comeback. Having not fought on the World Tour in almost 2 years, she threw with a massive Ura Nage to take the under 57kg class Gold medal. Experience shined once again as Gneto became our woman of the day
She was awarded her medals by Dr. Sandra Corak, Education Director of the IJF. We asked her about her time away from competition.
“It was a long long time. During this time I saw that I really loved my sport, and I was so excited to be back,” explained Gneto.
At under 60kg class, Sam Hall of Great Britain seized his opportunity as Italy’s Angelo Pantano turned in for an attack. With Hall securing the strangle, he earned his first-ever Grand Prix medal, and it was Gold
Dr. Lisa Allan, Events Director of the IJF, awarded the medals.
At under 52kg category, Belgium’s Amber Ryheul shocked France’s Astride Gneto, turning her over into a Sankaku-Gatame hold down, to secure the Gold medal.
Mr. Mohamed Meridja, Education and Coaching Director of the IJF was on hand to award the medals.
Young Croatian Judoka, Ana Viktorija Puljiz, seized her opportunity to shine on an international stage, valiantly fighting her way to a bronze medal. Displaying explosive and dynamic Judo, Puljiz was absolutely delighted to put Croatia on the medal table!
And it seemed all Judoka went to perform with some enormous Ippons, including from both our male silver medallists. An epic standing Kata Guruma from Italy’s Pantano, and a powerful throw from Russia’s Abdula Abdulzhalilov, kicking the 2021 Zagreb Grand Prix off to a fantastic start!