The Judo World Tour is back in Tel Aviv and a capacity crowd in the Shlomo arena saw International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer get the competition underway.
And there was to be a clean sweep for the French women’s team - who took all three golds on day one.
Second gold in a row for Boukli
Shirine Boukli began the French gold rush with victory in the -48kg category, beating Italy’s Francesca Milani with an o-soto-gari for waza-ari.
It was her second gold in a row in Tel Aviv.
“I think Tel Aviv loves me and I love Tel Aviv,” she said. “And I am very happy to start this year with this gold medal in Tel Aviv.”
Her medal was given out by Sylvan Adams, co-host of the Tel Aviv Judo Grand Slam 2022.
Astride Gneto got France’s second gold, dominating her -52kg final against Ryoko Takeda from Japan. A perfectly executed combination of ko-uchi to o-uchi-gari concluded the contest, leaving Takeda on her back and Gneto with an ippon.
Yavuz Yükselir, the owner of the Yavuz-Yükselir Group presented the medals.
And older sister Priscilla Gneto completed the French hat-trick with victory in the -57kg category.
The final was a tactical contest, which Georgia’s Eteri Liparteliani lost after committing three Shido technical faults.
Yoel Razvozov, Minister of Tourism of the State of Israel, gave out the medals.
Shmailov secures first gold for home team
In the men’s contest, Artem Lesiuk from Ukraine took gold in the -60kg category, defeating Bauyrzhan Narbayev from Kazakhstan in the final.
It was a powerful double attack that gave Lesiuk his long-awaited first-ever Grand Slam gold medal. A first soto-makikomi failed to score because the landing angle was less than 90° - but a perfect follow-through secured the victory.
Sergey Soloveychik, Vice President of the International Judo Federation and President of the European Judo Union gave out the medals.
And Israel’s Baruch Shmailov got the biggest cheer of the day with his victory in the -66kg category against Yashar Najafov from Azerbaijan.
The winning move didn’t come until the beginning of the golden score, when Shmailov was unsuccessful with a ko-soto-gari but followed through with a turnover for ippon
Hili Tropper, Minister of Culture and Sports of the State of Israel gave out the medals.
“Well I'm feeling great,” said Shmailov. “Especially because it happened in Tel Aviv with the home crowd and my family watching. All of the important people that I wanted to do this for, they were here to witness this incredible day and I'm really happy for it.”
The Israeli team was on fire all day, showing the world that judo is indeed the country's strongest sport. And the emphatic crowd watched on with enthusiasm, buzzing with anticipation for the next two days in Tel Aviv.