Heavyweights dominate final day of Zagreb Judo Grand Prix

By Philip Andrew Churm
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Top international judoka impress fans in Zagreb on the final day of the Judo Grand Prix


The final day of the Zagreb Judo Grand Prix saw the heavyweights take centre stage.

Local Croatian heroes Lara Cvjetko and Barbara Matić along with Hungarian legend Hedvig Karakas met their fans, signed autographs, took selfies and held a training session for children. An amazing experience for the young judoka to help them grow into the next generation.

With a full house at the Arena Zagreb, the World's best judoka battled for gold.

At -90kg Krisztián Tóth was up first; securing a gold medal on Hungary’s National Celebratory Day, August 20, embodying the nation's pride for his fans at home.

As always, there was friendship and respect from Toth as IJF Vice President Dr Laszlo TOTH awarded the medals.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Tóth said : "I really love Zagreb, I really love Croatia of course because of the beach for instance or because of the training camp which is amazing and the unbelievable feelings there. And also the crowd love me so yeah, it was an amazing day."

Karol Gimenes at -78kg had her greatest day on a tatami; her first ever World Judo Tour event and she earned the top spot on the podium throwing and holding down for gold. An incredible result for the Brazilian.

IJF Education Director Dr Sanda Corak awarded the medals.

Gimenes said: "I felt like I was in Brazil, because in Brazil we’re used to having a big crowd. And here I felt the same way in the final block, so I just felt home.  I felt good and confident and it was an amazing feeling."

At -100kg Aleksandar Kukolj scored an expert waza-ari and held out in the final seconds of the contest to take the gold medal; his first on the World Judo Tour since 2018.

European Judo Union General Secretary Dr Martin Poiger awarded the medals.

At +78kg, Kayra Ozdemir was in great form, she proved that she deserved the top seeding with an impressive ippon to end the contest.

Awarding the medals was Croatian Judo Federation Honorary President Mr Tomislav Čuljak.

At +100kg, double Olympic Champion Lukáš Krpálek was almost caught in a hold down by Ota Hyoga, but Krpálek escaped and managed to take a tactical victory due to penalties. Another gold for the Czech phenomenon.

Awarding the medals was IJF Head Sport Director Mr Vladimir Barta.

There were ippons a plenty from local home heroes here in Croatia, an amazing day for the host nation and bringing to an end the 2023 Zagreb Judo Grand Prix.

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