There was more explosive judo on display as action from the heavier weight categories spilled onto the tatami on a thrilling third and final day of the Zagreb Grand Prix 2019.
One thing's for sure: Georgia’s Beka Gviniashvili is back. Two years since his last IJF World tour gold, he was elated to defeat Japan’s Sanshiro Murao in the -90kg final. And he did it in spectacular fashion. A classical moment of Georgian judo, countering backwards, sending his opponent flying and becoming our Man of the Day.
Our Woman of the Day was former World Champion Mami Umeki of Japan. A clever uchi mata against France’s Fanny Estelle Posvite, using her dominant grips to counter the Frenchwoman’s kosoto attack, and earning her the -78kg title and her third Grand Prix gold medal to remain in the frame for Tokyo 2020 selection
Umeki was awarded her medal by Mr Tomislav Culjak, Personal representative of the speaker of the Croatian parliament, and Honorary President of the Croatian Judo Federation.
"I expected my opponent in the final would be very strong. I concentrated on my grips and I was very persistent with this in the first four minutes, and that led to my winning uchi mata in golden score. I was happy to show what I’ve been working on in training," said Mami Umeki in an interview
In the men's division, Shady Elnahas of Canada found himself in his third World Tour final. And this time he was not to be denied. Brilliantly transitioning to ground work after a weak attack from his French opponent Alexandre Iddir, and rapidly securing a strong armlock, to earn a submission in golden score, and his first World Tour gold.
The young Canadian was absolutely thrilled to make a solid mark on the incredibly competitive -100kg category.
"So a lot of people don’t know that I actually enjoying doing Ne-waza. It’s just I prefer being standing because I’m better at that. But I have some tricks up my sleeve, so it’s pretty good to finally have my first Juji in a tournament, that was actually my firest Ne-waza win on the IJF circuit. So, that was pretty good too," said Shady Elnahas in an interview.
In the women's +78kg category, Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Akira Sone of Japan claimed heavyweight gold one month away from making her World Championships debut at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. Sone, 19, did not have to fight in the final as European Games silver medallist Larisa Ceric of Bosnia Herzegovina unfortunately was sidelined after picking up an injury in her successful semi-final clash.
There was more gold for Georgia in the +100kg category, as their Junior World Champion Gela Zaalishvili overcame Olympic silver medallist Hisayoshi Harasawa of Japan with an enormous Khabareli technique, named after Georgian legend, Shota Khabareli. It was a case of more powerful judo on display in a dynamite set of finals.
The teenage Japanese judoka may have only managed the silver in the men's heavyweight category, but Japan still comfortably topped the medals table standings at the end of the three-day tournament, with four golds and four silvers, ahead of Canada in second place with two golds and two silvers, while a final-day push by Georgia saw them placed third in the standings, with two golds and three bronzes.
Moment of the Day
Our Moment of the Day came in the -78kg bronze match, as the home team finally had something to cheer about.
Croatia's Karla Prodan registered her first ever IJF World tour medal after defeating Poland's Beata Pacut, sending the home crowd into raptures.
It was a beautiful moment for everyone in attendance, and a fantastic way to round off the 2019 Zagreb Grand Prix.