An eagerly anticipated draw took place today for judo's season-closing Tokyo Grand Slam, with many of the biggest names in the sport set to compete.
After a gruelling season on the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Tour - already consisting of four Grand Slams and 11 Grand Prix - more than 400 athletes from 65 countries have descended on the Japanese capital for the final test.
Three-time reigning world champion Masashi Ebinuma will lead a formidable Japanese challenge in the men's under 66 kilogram division, although Charles Chibana of Brazil and Mikhail Pulyaec of Russia, ranked second and third in the world, will also compete.
In a field littered with the world's top ranked performers, Avtandili Tchrikishvili and Varlem Lipartellani will be hoping for a Georgian double in the under 81 and under 90kg divisions, although world champion Ilias Iliadis of Greece will offer a strong challenge in the latter event.
Other leading contenders are Boldbaatar Ganbat of Mongolia in the under 60kg division, Dex Elmont of The Netherlands at under 73kg and Cyrille Maret of France in the under 100kg category.
But, in the absence of Maret's virtually unbeatable compatriot Teddy Riner, Ryu Shichinohe of Japan and Rafael Silva of Brazil, the respective runners-up behind the Frenchman at the last two World Championships, will go head to head for heavyweight honours.
A compelling South American dual is on the cards in the women's under 48kg category, where London 2012 gold medallist Sarah Menezes of Brazil will face Paula Pareto, the Argentinian who won a silver medal at the 2014 World Championships in Chelyabinsk.
But it is the European challenge which should be most formidable in other women's events, with Andreea Chițu of Romania, Telma Monteiro of Portugal and Tina Trstenjak of Slovenia the top seeds in the respective under 52, under 57 and under 63kg competitions.
Kim Polling of The Netherlands leads the entrants in the under 70kg event, while Luise Malzahn of Germany will face the likes of United States' Olympic champion Kayla Harrison in the under 78kg competition.
In the heavyweight competition, meanwhile, world champion and world number one Idalys Ortiz of Cuba will take on a field that also includes 2013 Tokyo Grand Slam winner, and home hope, Megumi Tachimoto.
At the draw in the Tokyo Dome Hotel today. the All Japan Judo Federation was represented by its vice-president, former four-time world judo champion Yamashita Yasuhiro, along with IJF head sports director Vladimir Barta.
"Beyond the 500 points that will be allocated to the winners, which will be very important in the framework of the Olympic qualifications towards Rio 2016," said Barta.
"I want to mention that those points will also be decisive to determine who will be the Prestige Top Athletes of the Seasons.
"At the end of the Grand Slam, based on the World Ranking List, we will discover who was the best female and the best male athlete of the year, throughout the weight categories.
"Those two athletes will receive a significant prize money award from the IJF."
The Tokyo Grand Slam is due to begin tomorrow at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and lasts until Sunday (December 7).
All the action will be available on Judo TV here.
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