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Judo: France and Japan battle it out at the 2022 Paris Grand Slam

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By Mark Armstrong
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Judo: France and Japan battle it out at the 2022 Paris Grand Slam
Copyright  Lewis Joly/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The second day of the 2022 Paris Grand Slam began with a special celebration, as International Judo Federation President, Marius Vizer, presented Saudi Judo Federation President, Abdulaziz Albassam, with the Jigoro Kano Statue, in recognition of their Judo for Peace Award.

Meanwhile, the spectators inside the AccorHotels Arena were in for a thrilling final in the under 81kg class.

In an unbelievable back and forth battle between two incredibly talented fighters, Fujiwara Sotaro of Japan reigned supreme, defeating the fierce Tato Grigalashvili of Georgia.

His Excellency, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, was on hand to award the medals.

At under 70kgs, Margaux Pinot of France overcame Japan’s Niizoe Saki to take her first grand slam gold in front of the adoring French crowd.

She was awarded her medal by Roxana Mărăcineanu, France's Minister of Sport.

At under 90kgs, it would be Murao Sanshiro of Japan who would take gold, with this reaching osoto-gari on Azerbaijan’s Mammadali Mehdiyev.

IJF Guest Patrick Bahadourian awarded the medals.

The Japanese - French rivalry was on display once again in the under 78kg final, as Audrey Tcheumeo of France triumphed over Umeki Mami of Japan, earning her a 5th Paris Grand Slam title.

The medals were awarded by the former Prime Minister of France, Jean Pierre Raffarin

“It was really a rollercoaster, my emotions were going up and down, Tcheumeo said after her victory." Happiness, disappointment, surprise, all kinds. And it was really difficult to deal with that, but I managed to do it until the end. And in the end, I won, and that is the most important.”

It was a battle of the current and former European Champions at under 100kgs, Toma Nikiforov of Belgium emerged victorious, defeating Peter Paltchik of Israel in golden score.

He was awarded the gold medal by Pascal Raffy Owner & Managing Director of Bovet.

“Judo is a really difficult sport," explained Nikiforov afterwards. "We train a lot, there are a lot of competitions, also we train together. When I fight with him outside of the competitions, he is making me stronger but I am also making him stronger too. So I think that is the difference between judo and other sports. I don’t think Nadal and Federer are playing together, you know, outside of the Grand Slams. So that is the big difference between judo and the other sports.”

In the over 78kg, Japan got revenge when Tomita Wakaba defeated home favourite Romane Dicko in the final.

IJF General Secretary, Jean Luc Rouge, awarded the medals.

The over 100kg closed the competition with another exciting final, with Mongolia’s Tsetsentsengel Odkhuu using clinical groundwork to claim gold.

IJF Guest Alexander Baev, awarded the last gold of the tournament.

Another fantastic end to another fantastic tournament.