Judo fans witnessed an incredible opening ceremony at the Heydar Aliyev Baku Grand Slam, and Azerbaijan was on top on Day 2 of a thrilling tournament.
Azerbaijan's Hidayat Heydarov was the man of form. He was on fire in the land of fire and the home crowd were completely behind him. Heydarov demolished his way to the -73kg final, with one fantastic bit of judo after another. Defeating his compatriot and biggest rival on the way there, the local hero gave Azerbaijan their first gold of the tournament after overcoming Israel's Tohar Butbul in the final, and making him our Man of the Day.
Heydarov was awarded his medal by Mr Rovnag Abdullayev, President of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation.
Our Woman of the Day was Japan's Chizuru Arai, the current World Champion, who took her title here in Baku last September and came here to dominate again.
Arai defeated Sweden’s Anna Bernholm in the -70kg final with a fantastic ashi guruma, which she followed up with a pin to secure the victory. The gold medal win for Arai, who is now undefeated on the IJF circuit since May 2018, helped Japan top the medals standings at the end of Day 2 in Baku.
"I am so delighted to win in Baku, Azerbaijan again. Although we are in a different stadium to the World Championships, it still feels the same. It was a great pleasure for me to come back here and win again as a World Champion," Chizuru Arai said in an interview.
Israel's Sagi Muki was incredible once again and has positioned himself as a major contender for World Championships glory this summer after earning his fourth Grand Slam gold medal in Baku.
A rematch against the Bulgarian Ivaylo Ivanov from Tel Aviv earlier this year, went the same way and it was another Grand Slam gold for the Israeli powerhouse.
"Ivanov is also a tough player and I knew that it will not be easy. We got into the Golden score, and in the Golden score I succeeded to throw him the other side. I knew he would be tough to fight, because he is smart and he learns from the past," Sagi Muki said in an interview.
Slovenia's Tina Trstenjak was once again defeated by Miku Tashiro of Japan in the -63kg final, bringing the Japanese judoka's record to 8-0 over the current Olympic champion, this time thanks to a clever armlock. A superb performance.
Move of the Day
Our Move of the Day was by Telman Valiyev of Azerbaijan. He caught Russia's Ashi-waza king Denis Iartcev with a brilliant bit of Ashi-waza himself. Another Azerbaijani on form here in Baku. Brilliant Judo in the Land of Fire.