Host Azerbaijan get the first gold at the Judo Grand Slam in Baku

The 66 kilo category winners' podium at the Grand Slam in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Friday 22 September 2023.
The 66 kilo category winners' podium at the Grand Slam in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Friday 22 September 2023. Copyright Emanuele Di Feliciantonio/IJF
By Daniel Bellamy
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Azerbaijan's Yashar Najafov won the 66 kilo category in just 13 seconds at the Grand Slam in Baku on Friday.


The locals had crowded into the National Gymnastics Arena in Azerbaijan's capital with high hopes and they didn't leave disappointed. 

The event had been officially opened by the International Judo Federation alongside local officials who welcomed the global judo family to their beautiful country.

Then Yashar Najafov took the stage in the gold medal contest against Japan's Takeshi Takeoka. And after only 13 seconds, he gave the ecstatic crowd exactly what they came to see, bringing the gold to the host nation with this massive uchi-mata. The crowd went wild, inspired by this amazing display of judo.

The medals were awarded by Azerbaijan NOC General Secretary Mr Azer Aliyev. 

"I wanted to win this medal because I’m in my home, and I did it. Azerbaijani people love judo, everybody was watching," Najafov said afterwards.

The 48kg category pitted world number one Assunta Scutto of Italy against home favourite Leyla Aliyeva. Although Aliyeva put up an incredibly tough fight, a bit of clinical groundwork secured gold for the Italian superstar.

After Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister of Youth & Sport Ms Mariana Vasileva had awarded the medals, Scutto commented on her victory. "To win when I am tired is a great result for me because it means that I’m improving and I’m so happy for this gold," she said.

The 60kg category saw two neutral athletes, Gamzat Zairbekov and Ramazan Abdulaev, face off. After a close final, and a waza-ari scored from a hold down, they both embraced in a true display of judo values.

International Judo Federation Vice President Laszlo Toth was on hand afterwards to award the medals.  

In the 52kg category, Japan’s Kisumi Omori put up a determined fight against the lightweight Olympic champion Distria Krasniqi from Kosovo in a close contest that lasted deep into overtime, the tactical victory went to Japan.

IJF Director General Mr Vlad Marinescu awarded the medals.  

In the final category of the day, it was Nora Gjakova from Kosovo versus Eteri Liparteliani from Georgia. The Olympic Champion took the victory with a waza-ari.

The medals were awarded by IJF Head Referee Director Mr Florin Daniel Lascau.

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