By Paul Osborne

Russia and Azerbaijan have come away from day one of the Tbilisi Grand Prix with two gold medals apiece ©IJFMarch 21 - Russia and Azerbaijan have taken two gold medals apiece on the opening day of competition at the 2014 Tbilisi Judo Grand Prix, as action from the five lightest weight categories got underway at the Tbilisi Sports Palace in Georgia.

Former Moscow Grand Slam winner Nataliya Kondratyeva got Russia off to the best possible start, as she picked up the first gold medal of the Grand Prix with victory over Ukraine's Warsaw European Open winner Maryna Cherniak in the women's under 48 kilogram final.

The Russian did well to hold off a juji-gatame attempt by her Ukrainian opponent in the opening minute of the contest and never looked back, securing two wazi-aris to win by wazari-awasette-ippon.

The first bronze medal of the Grand Prix was picked up by Israeli debutant Amelie Rosseneu, who saw off losing semi-finalist Kristina Rumyantseva of Russia with a yuko in golden score.

Nataliya Kondratyeva got Russia's medal haul underway with victory in the women's under 48kg category ©IJFNataliya Kondratyeva got Russia's medal haul underway with victory in the women's under 48kg category ©IJF

Turkey's Casablanca African Open bronze medallist Dilara Lokmanhekim secured the second bronze medal after shocking Slovenian medallist Kristina Vrsic with an ouchi-gari for ippon with just 66 seconds left on the clock.

Tashkent Grand Prix silver medallist Gili Cohen ensured Israel came away from day one with a gold medal after overcoming Italy's London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Rosalba Forciniti in the women's under 52kg final.

A single shido penalty for a false attack was enough for the Italian to hand the title to her Israeli counterpart as neither judoka could break through their opponent's defences.

Ukrainian Tetiana Levytska clinched the first of the two bronze medals as she scored a yuko and waz-ari to overcome her compatriot Oleksandra Starkova.

An all-Russian affair was avoided in the second bronze medal match as Yulia Ryzhova was forced to pull out due to injury, handing the contest to team-mate Natalia Kuziutina.

The Russian gold count was doubled in the women's under 57kg competition, as Dusseldorf Grand Prix bronze medallist Irina Zabludina bested Serbia's Jeju Grand Prix bronze medallist Jovana Rogic.

The contest took just 55 seconds to reach its conclusion as Zabludina locked on the juji-gatame to force Rogic to submit after each competitor had received shido penalties for passivity.

As gold still evaded the Ukrainian judokas, Jeju Grand Prix bronze medallist Shushana Hevondian added to their medal count as she secured the first of the bronze medals with victory over Mongolia's Batzul Altai.

Kifayat Gasimova got Azerbaijan's medal haul underway in the second bronze medal final as she triumphed over 22-year-old world bronze medallist Vlora Bedeti.

Azerbaijan dominated the men's contests with victory for both Orkhan Safarov and Nijat Shikhalizada in the under 60kg and under 66kg categories ©IJFAzerbaijan dominated the men's contests with victory for both Orkhan Safarov and Nijat Shikhalizada in the under 60kg and under 66kg categories ©IJF

After Gasimova got the ball rolling for the Azerbaijani competitors, both Orkhan Safarov and Nijat Shikhalizada made it a memorable day for the country as they secured a gold apiece in the two men's contests.

In the under 60kg category, world bronze medallist Safarov secured his first World Judo Tour title with an emphatic osoto-gari to score ippon against former Asian Championships bronze medallist Yerkebulan Kossayev of Kazakhstan.

Russia's Arsen Galstyan disappointed both Amiran Papinashvili and the home fans as he beat the local favourite to secure the first bronze medal.

The crowd was given something to cheer in the second bronze medal final however, as 20-year-old national champion Lukhumi Chkhvimiani defeated Kazakhstan's Gabit Yessimbetov to claim the first medal of the day for the hosts.

Shikhalizada brought more disappointment for Ukrainian judoka in the under 66kg final, as he secured an ippon off a tai-otoshi to fell former world champion Georgii Zantaraia.

The two bronze medals were earned by Mongolia's Batgerel Battsetseg and Russia's Alim Gadanov, as the Mongolian bested Kazakhstani Yeldos Zhumakanov on shido penalties, while Gadanov's team-mate Kamal Khan-Magomedov could not take part after being disqualified in his semi-final with a hansoku-make.

The action continues in Tbilisi tomorrow with the women's under 63kg and under 70kg contests, and men's under 73kg and under 81kg weight categories taking to the tatami.

Watch the latest action on Judo TV here.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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