Kazakhstan Barysy Grand Slam. Japan’s Olympic selection shines, but Dicko looks unstoppable

Sunday marked the final day of the Kazakhstan Barysy Grand Slam at the Zhaksylyk Ushkempirov Martial Arts Palace in Astana.
Sunday marked the final day of the Kazakhstan Barysy Grand Slam at the Zhaksylyk Ushkempirov Martial Arts Palace in Astana. Copyright IJF
Copyright IJF
By Euronews
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The final day of the Kazakhstan Barysy Grand Slam in Astana saw the heavyweights take to the tatami inside the Zhaksylyk Ushkempirov Martial Arts Palace, searching for valuable ranking points for world championship and Olympic Games qualifications.

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Fans flocked to the stadium in the capital to witness the highest levels of judo.

At -90kg, neutral athlete Yahor Varapayeu faced off against Olympic silver medallist 27-year-old German, Eduard Trippel.

A moment of brilliance from Varapayeu, also aged 27, secured him his first grand slam medal since 2018, and it was gold.

Kazakhstan Judo Federation Vice President, Saken Mussaibekov awarded the medals.

In the -78kg final, Chinese world silver medallist Zhenzhao Ma took on the up-and-coming 21-year-old German, Anna Monta Olek.

Initially both athletes thought they had scored, but it was 26-year-old Ma who was judged to have made an impact on the leg of Olek, and she took the victory.

She welcomed her first Grand Slam gold since 2022.

Ma was awarded her medal by IJF Education & Coaching Director, Mohammed Meridja.

Japanese Olympic champion Aaron Wolf was one man everyone was there to see.

At -100kg, the 28-year-old took on the exciting and dynamic Swiss national, 24-year-old Daniel Eich.

After threatening several times, Wolf launched his trademark Uchi-mata to show that he very much intends to defend his Olympic title in a few months' time.

The medals were awarded by Kazakhstani judoka and 2009 world champion, Maksim Rakov.

Wolf noted the popularity of judo in Kazakhstan.

''I was happy to be able to compete in such a lively atmosphere,'' he said.

The stars came thick and fast on day three of competition.

Former French world champion and category queen, Romane Dicko stopped China taking a clean sweep of the women's medals in typical dominant fashion.

An armlock forced 33-year-old Su Xin to submit and showed that 24-year-old Dicko is always expanding her technical game.

She was awarded her medal by IJF Sport Director, Skander Hachicha.

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Dicko said she appreciated the support of the crowd, even though some got her name wrong.

''I heard the people like 'Dicko Dicko', they said 'disco' actually, but that's okay. The children were cheering. That was super cool and I think everybody enjoyed this tournament. It was the first time for me, but not the last time,'' she said.

At +100kg, Japanese judo practitioner, Saito Tatsuru took on 26-year-old Tajikistan national, Temur Rakhimov. One of the most exciting heavyweight prospects to come from Japan in recent years, 22-year-old Tatsuru looked in good form in his run-out before the Olympics.

A big display of emotion showed what this victory meant to him.

He was awarded his medal by Olympic silver medallist, Dr Askhat Zhitkeyev.

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That wraps up the competition in Kazakhstan.

The king of all events, the World Judo Championships, will start in Abu Dhabi next week.

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