Day 2 of the 2019 Zagreb Grand Prix saw Croatian children having the wonderful chance to have a Judo session on a World tour tatami. A fantastic experience before the finals, where they cheered on the stars of world judo on the very same mat they had just trained on. They witnessed the opening ceremony, with speeches from IJF ambassador Al Bano, president of the Croatian Judo Federation Dr. Sandra Corak, and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Mr. Gordan Grlic Radman.
On the tatami, Japan’s Takanori Nagase was our Man of the Day. Hot off the back of his victory in Montreal, the former world champion fought the same opponent, Canada's Antoine Valois-Fortier, again in the -81kg finals. And dispatched him with the same confidence as before. Even though Nagase has been overlooked for the upcoming World Championships, his recent run of results could well see him put himself back into the Olympic conversation.
The victory for the Japanese judoka also nudged his country up to the top of the medals table standings at the end of day two of the three-day tournament as Japan so far has two golds and two silvers, ahead of Canada with one gold and two silvers and Great Britain in third place with one gold, one silver and two bronzes.
"Despite the fact that Valois Fortier and I have fought many times, and this makes it more difficult, I just have to concentrate on my judo. My body reacted spontaneously for my attack, and got the ippon, and I’m really happy with that result," said Takanori Nagase in an interview.
Great Britain’s Gemma Howell took on multiple European Champion Kim Polling of the Netherlands in the -70kg final, and scored waza-ari with kouchi gari near the end of the contest. Budapest Grand Prix winner Howell held on into the dying seconds to win her second title in two tournaments. Needless to say, her family, cheered on by her mother Suzanne, were elated to see Gemma become our Woman of the Day.
"So obviously I knew I had to try and waste some time on the ground, and I had her arm straight, so I literally hugged it like it was the best teddy in the whole wide world, and just held onto it for dear life, just hoping the clock ticked as quick as possible. So then yeah, I was happy when I got up and there was just 2 seconds left," and elated Gemma Howell said in an interview.
Elsewhere, in the men's competition, Israel’s Tohar Butbul had a fantastic day, as a series of dynamic throws scored one great ippon after another as he blasted his way through the category, flying past some of the strongest at -73kg, including Russia’s ashi-waza merchant Denis Iartcev.
In the final it was a close affair, but a waza-ari score against Canada’s Arthur Margelidon clinched victory for Butbul and the -73kg gold medal.
In the women's division, Slovenia’s Olympic champion Tina Trstenjak won the -63kg category, with a fantastic ouchi gari counter the highlight of her route to the final. There, she defeated Nami Nabekura of Japan in golden score after the Japanese judoka was found guilty of a bear hug and handed her third and final shido, giving Trstenjak the gold medal.
Move of the Day
Our Move of the Day was by previously mentioned Denis Iartcev of Russia, in the bronze medal contest of the -73kg category.
Countering Japan’s Arata Tatsukawa, Iartcev perfectly demonstrated one of judo’s key principles - minimum effort, maximum efficiency.