Ukrainian star Daria Bilodid is set to return to action for the first time since becoming junior world champion in October when she competes at the sixth edition of the International Judo Federation (IJF) Grand Prix in Tbilisi this weekend.
Judo’s youngest world champion of all time, still just 18 years of age, is due to launch her 2019 season tomorrow and there is the potential for new opponents, including former world champion Urantsetseg Munkhbat of Mongolia.
The countdown clock for Tokyo 2020 recently passed 500 days and the entry in Tbilisi reflects what is a crucial time of the season.
Georgia’s capital will host Olympic and world champions in abundance at the Tbilisi Sport Palace.
Joining Bilodid in competing on day one will be Olympic champion Rafaela Silva of Brazil, while fellow Rio 2016 gold medallist Tina Trstenjak of Slovenia will be in action on Saturday (March 30) alongside three-time world champion and double Olympic medallist Yuri Alvear of Colombia.
On Sunday (March 31), former world champions Avtandili Tchrikishvili of Georgia and Loic Pietri of France and world silver medallist Ivan Felipe Silva Morales of Cuba are all scheduled to battle in the men’s under-90 kilograms category.
Vladimir Barta, the IJF’s head sport director, made the opening address at the draw, which took place this afternoon at the Holiday Inn Tbilisi.
It was there that it was revealed that 372 judoka will compete from 52 nations.
"On behalf of the IJF President Mr. Marius L. Vizer, I welcome you all to Georgia," Barta said.
"The Tbilisi tournament is one of the most historic and famous within our sport, and dates back to the 1970s.
"We are confident that in 2019 we will have another wonderful competition.
"I wish good luck to all the judoka, coaches and officials and wish you a pleasant stay in Georgia."
Georgian Judo Federation President Giorgi Atabegashvili spoke on behalf of the Organising Committee.
"I am proud that Tbilisi hosts this event for the sixth time," he said.
"We have seen very interesting and exciting judo here and I think this year will be an excellent edition with every country bringing their best judoka.
"I would like to thank the IJF for this opportunity to host this event once again and I’d like to thank the City Hall of Tbilisi and the Ministry.
"I wish you a nice time in Tbilisi and say good luck to you all."
Watch all the action from Tbilisi on Judo TV.