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2019 Paris GS Round Up and bits from Viszer's Q and A

The Paris Grand Slam was held last weekend, and as the first Grand Slam event of the year, it didn't disappoint (at least for the people who won medals), and as an added bonus, IJF President Marius Vizer hosted a twitter Q and A.

Because we're talking about Paris, and France, we need to start with the French Team - or should I say the French Women. According to an article on the IJF site, this is the First time since 1971 that a French male Judoka hasn't gotten a podium spot at the Paris GS. But you know who did get a Podium spot - Clarisse Abegnounou. The hometown star won her fifth Paris GS title in spectacularly dramatic fashion - by beating Tina Trestenjak of Slovenia 3 minutes deep into Golden Score, and throwing out her shoulder in the process (you can watch her moment of glory in the video below)

I also want to give a shout out to both Devin Waldenburg (-60) and Ebony Drysdale Daley (-70) who became the first Jamaicans to compete in an IJF World Tour event.

The Men's -100 had an impressive showing from Georgia's Varlam Liparteliani - who beat the WRL #3 and #4 on his way to Gold. The Japanese team did fairly well - including Gold for Ami Kondo in -48 and silver for Aaron Wolf in -100, but the big disappointment for Japan was Hifume Abe bowing out early and not even placing in his division.

As for my Israel Squad, who only brought their men's team to Paris, and coming off of the high of a very successful Tel-Aviv Grand Prix, there are two ways to look at it. You can look at the fact that they came away with 1 silver, 2 bronze and 3 fifth place finishes from 8 competitors.  Or you could look at it with the glass half-empty - they were in 4 semi-finals on day 2 and only came away with 2 medals; and Tal Flicker and Tohar Butbul - two of their stronger competitors, didn't make it out of the early rounds.

Sagi Muki, who is one of Israel's brightest young stars, won Silver in the -81, fresh off of his Gold Medal win in Tel-Aviv. But more newsworthy than his medal, is who he didn't play. Iran's Saed Mollaei, the World #1, easily allowed himself to be thrown for Ippon less than 20 seconds into his semi-final match, in order to not be faced with a situation where he'd have to fight Muki in the final. (Mollaei won the Bronze medal, but then didn't appear on the podium, claiming he was injured in his final fight). If you watch the video, you can clearly see the tears in his eyes and a disappointed look on his face. Marius Vizer, the IJF President, addressed this in a twitter Q & A during the tournament. Unlike the situations in Abu Dhabi and Tunis - where the host country is the problem, he very quickly (and correctly IMHO) addressed this situation by pointing out that the course of action here isn't to punish the athlete - who likely was forced to throw the match by his NGB, but the NGB itself. (He was also asked about re-instating the Tunis GP, and said he would do it, when Tunisia agreed to his conditions). I fully back Vizer on this one, especially after he played hardball with Abu Dhabi and Tunisia.

Interestingly, one of the other things he addressed in his Q&A was the upcoming Montreal GP, and spreading Judo in North America. He said he'd be attending the tournament in Montreal, and felt that Canada was a huge potential growth market. He also threw shade on the USA team - suggesting that the USA team would need to produce better results in order to grow the sport in the USA.

To his point - the Canadians had a good showing at this tournament - with teammates Christa DeGuchi and Jessica Klimkait squaring off in the Gold Medal Match for -57. It was a clean match, but DeGuchi catches Klimkait with a Tai-Otoshi with about 8 seconds left in the match for the eventual winning score. (Video below)

In addition to the items mentioned above, here are some other highlights/TL;DR from Chairman Viszer's Q and A:

  • There are over 40 Million practicing Judoka in the world
  • The Tel-Aviv GP was a success
  • He's looking forward to the WC in Tokyo, and the GP in Montreal
  • It's possible that the WC might return to Paris in the not-so-distant future
  • They're exploring the idea of Ne-Waza only tournaments in the future
  • They're considering the possibility of adding another women's weight category below open weight (currently +78kg)
  • The IJF is trying to grow Judo in smaller countries and is supporting the athletes from those countries - like the 2 Jamaican Judoka who became their country's first world tour competitors
  • He is open to exploring the idea of a World Tour event in Cuba, provided that the Cuban government and NGB are interested in running one
Here is the full transcript:

Now for a "lighter side of" moment, I did a double take when I saw that the Japanese competitor in -70 was named "Yoko Ono" - seriously. I don't think she's related (just like I am not related to her teammate Aaron Wolf). While the other Yoko Ono might have collected Gold Records with her late husband John, this one collected a Gold Medal in Paris.


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