October 4 - History was made in more ways than one on the opening day of the first ever World Judo Tour event to be held in Uzbekistan as Belgium's Ilse Heylen became her country's most successful competitor ever by claiming a 44th international medal.
The 36-year-old from Edegem, who had also topped the podium in Almaty last weekend, overtook compatriot and Atlanta 1996 gold medal winner Ulla Werbrouck's record of 43 medals in international competition, by defeating Israel's Gili Cohen in the final of the under 52 kilogramme category at the Uzbekistan Sports Complex.
"I am really happy," said the Athens 2004 bronze medallist.
"I went to two Grand Prixs, and won two gold medals.
"Actually, I really made a good and strong preparation for the World Championships in Rio.
"Unfortunately, I lost at the second round again and I couldn't enter the repechages.
"It was important for me to keep going and to show that I was in a very good condition and of course I am happy to take the record of medals won by a Belgium athlete in international events."
Cohen's teammate Roni Schwartz and India's Kalpana Devi Thoudam took the bronze medals.
In the only other women's competition decided on the opening day, Israel was once again on the podium, only this time Shira Rishony was on the top step after overcoming Kazakhstan's Alexandra Podryadova in the under 48kg class, to add to her bronze from Almaty, while the first medal of the day for the hosts went to Nodira Gulova who defeated compatriot Kristina Kovaleva in the only bronze medal match.
The home crowd were then treated to three successive gold medals in the men's competitions as Sharafuddin Lutfillaev, Mirzahid Farmonov and Mirali Sharipov all proved masters of the tatami in Taskent.
Lutfillaev overcame Ukrainian Hevorh Hevorhyan with a powerful o-uchi-gari for ippon in the under 60kg category to get the gold-medal-winning ball rolling for Uzbekistan while Diego Santos reversed the outcome against Aziz Zuvaev in the bronze medal match with Kherlen Ganbold picking up the other bronze against Kazakhstan's Yerkebulan Kossayev.
Farmonov continued the home success in the under 66kg final after immobilising Mongolia's Batgerel Battsetseg, while also picking up the male athlete of the day award.
It was Brazil versus Kazakhstan again in the bronze medal match between Leandro Cunha and Bakdaulet Sabitov, and it was the two-time World Championship silver medallist Cunha who prevailed while it was disappointment for home favourite Ulugbek Norkobilov as he lost out to Mediterranean Games silver medal winner Andraz Jereb of Slovenia.
The last final of the day saw the Uzbek flag raised highest again as Sharipov proved too good for Brazil's Alex William Pombo Da Silva in the under 73kg category.
Victor Scvortov, representing the United Arab Emirates, defeated Mongolian Odbayar Ganbaatar and former world champion Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar of Mongolia overcame the Ukraine's Serhiy Drebot in the bronze medal matches.
At the end of a successful first session for the hosts, President of the Uzbek Judo Federation (UJF) Armen Bagdasarov said: "It was a good day for our athletes.
"I am a happy President tonight.
"It is important for us to already show that we are getting ready for the Olympic qualification, which will start next year.
"And an event like this Grand Prix at home also offers us the possibility to give the chance to a new generation of athletes to discover what the very high level means.
"It motivates them and they all did very well today."
To watch the latest action on JudoTV click here.
Images©IJF Media Team by Tamas Zahonyi
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
October 2013: Judoka prepare for battle on tatami mats of Tashkent for first time
September 2013: Royal performance from Kazakhstan at World Judo Grand Prix in Almaty Sports Palace
September 2013: Astana awarded 2015 World Judo Championships
September 2013: Kazakhstan win two gold medals on opening day of World Judo Grand Prix in Almaty
September 2013: Almaty next stop on World Judo Tour