The 2018 International Judo Federation (IJF) Osaka Grand Slam is due to begin tomorrow as the World Tour arrives in the sport’s homeland and the host nation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The Maruzen Intec Arena will play host to the three-day event, which is being held in Osaka rather Tokyo due to the capital city's preparations for the staging of the Olympics in two years’ time.
It will be the fifth and final Grand Slam of the season following stops in Paris, Düsseldorf, Ekaterinburg and Abu Dhabi.
Home nation Japan are able to pick four judoka in each of the 14 weight categories and have therefore selected a 56-strong team that is packed with star names.
Olympic champions Mashu Baker and Shohei Ono, and Japan’s seven gold medallists from the 2018 World Championships in Baku - Naohisa Takato, Hifumi Abe, Uta Abe, Tsukasa Yoshida, Chizuru Arai, Shori Hamada and Sarah Asahina - will all be in action on home soil.
Ono, the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the men’s 73 kilograms category and a two-time world champion, will be competing on the IJF World Judo Tour for the first time since winning at the Düsseldorf Grand Slam in February.
The world number 25, who will be unseeded, triumphed at the Asian Games in August and his return to IJF duty has been hotly-anticipated.
Among the international athletes dreaming of glory will be Slovenia’s Tina Trstenjak, the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the women’s 63kg category, and Georgia’s Guram Tushishvili, the men’s over-100kg world champion.
Yasuhiro Yamashita, the All Japan Judo Federation President and IJF development director, welcomed all the delegations at the draw held today.
"We will follow this event next year with our 2019 World Championships in Tokyo and then we have the Olympic Games in 2020," he said.
"We are excited for the next three days of judo and I sincerely wish you all the best of luck here and a pleasant stay in Japan."
IJF general secretary Jean-Luc Rougé made the opening address at the draw on behalf of IJF President Marius Vizer.
"I’m pleased to welcome you all here to Japan for the final Grand Slam of the year," he said.
"I would like to thank Mr Yamashita and his team for the excellent organisation here.
"We’re in Osaka and not Tokyo due the work which is going on in preparation for Tokyo 2020.
"I would like to wish good luck to you all."
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