October 6 - Soyib Kurbanov ensured the home crowd went home happy as he secured a final-day gold medal for Uzbekistan at the Tashkent World Judo Tour Grand Prix, while competitors from Croatia, Kazakhstan and Germany also took top honours.
The unseeded Kurbanov was up against compatriot and Moscow Grand Slam silver medallist Ramziddin Sayidov in the final of the men's under 100 kilogrammes, and against a backdrop of excited cheering coming from the stands inside the Uzbekistan Sports Complex, the two engaged in a close-fought contest.
With just under 30 seconds to go, Kurbanov made his decisive move with a counter-attack that secured ippon and the adulation of the home support.
Dmytro Luchyn of the Ukraine scored yuko with o-uchi-gari, immediately followed by an immobilisation for ippon to take bronze against Mongolia's Enkhbat Erdenebileg, while Germany's Karl-Richard Frey against Brazil's Rafael Buzacarini battled it out in another tight affair which him emerge on top due to his opponent's being given penalties.
Frey's compatriot Andre Breitbarth also benefitted from his opponent being in penalty trouble in the final of the over 100kg competition.
Boltoboy Baltaev of Uzbekistan received two early penalties for lack of engagement which immediately put him on the back foot and, after being penalised again, the two-time Tashkent World up bronze medallist knew that one more strike and he was out.
So it proved after he received his fourth shido and disqualification as he struggled to make any impact against his bigger rival.
Germany, though, missed out on its third men's medal of the day after Tajikistan's Mukhamadmurod Abdurakhmonov overcame Junior World Championship bronze medallist Sven Heinle, while Brazil's David Moura bagged his second bronze in succession, following on from Almaty last weekend, against Russian Andrey Volkov.
Penalties were a deciding factor once again in the women's under 78kg class as Croatia's Ivana Maranic saw her opponent lose out after receiving a final penalty for a false attack to hand the Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist victory.
Kazakhstan's Albina Amangeldiyeva did not make herself too popular with the home crowd as she proved too strong for Iroda Matmuratova while India's Devi Sunibala Huidrom overcame the challenge of Amangeldiyeva's compatriot Anar Seitimova in the bronze medal matches.
Kazakhstan claimed gold medal success in the last women's competition of the weekend as Gulzhan Issanova made it two-in-a-row following on from her win in Almaty, by overpowering Mongolia's Javzmaa Odkhuu in the over 78kg category.
The only bronze medal match in this class was an all-Uzbekistan affair with former national cup winner Saneayim Erkinbaeva coming out on top against Anargul Uteeva.
Following the conclusion of the action in the arena, home favourite Mirzahid Farmonov was awarded the male athlete of the tournament prize while Brazil's Mariana Barros took the female award.
International Judo Federation (IJF) sports director Daniel Lascau drew proceedings to a close by thanking the organisers of the Grand Prix and looked forward to next year's event.
"It was the first time that an event of that size was organised in Tashkent, Uzbekistan," said Lascau.
"Generally speaking the organisation was good even if a few matters still need to be improved, but this is logical for a first event.
"Next year, the event will count for the Olympic qualification and more efforts will be needed but this year's Grand Prix was a very good rehearsal.
"As far as the sports department is concerned, we had a very good collaboration with the local organising committee and we didn't have problems.
"The draw was perfectly organised, we were always on time.
"Next year we will have two times more athletes and even more the following year."
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Images©IJF Media Team by Tamas Zahonyi
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