September 13 - Some 257 athletes from 38 countries will take to the tatami at the Zamet Centre in Rijeka, Croatia, for the International Judo Federation (IJF) Rijeka World Judo Grand Prix this weekend following a successful World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
The event represents the first time a World Judo Tour tournament will have been staged in Croatia and President of the Croatian Judo Federation (CJF) Sanda Corak, welcomed athletes and officials to the west coast of Croatia, including newly re-elected IJF President Marius Vizer.
"Welcome guests, officials and colleagues to you for the Rijeka Grand Prix 2013," said Corak.
"We have hosted many events but it is the first one of this level.
"I thank everyone for coming and I hope you will all enjoy your stay.
"Good luck to everyone."
Seven men's and seven women's categories will be contested over the two days of action in Rijeka.
In the women's categories, Kay Kraus of Germany and Kazan 2013 Universiade silver medallist Scarlett Gabrielli of France are expected to be challenging for gold in the under 48 kilogram class, while fresh from her bronze medal at the World Championships in Rio, another German Mareen Kraeh will be the favourite in the under 52kg category.
Emphasising the strength in German women's judo at the moment, another World Championship bronze medallist will be favourite in the under 57kg class, in the form of Miryam Roper, while in the under 63kg division, Slovenia's European Championship bronze medallist Tina Trstenjak is expected to feature prominently although she will be sure to face stiff competition from home favourite, 2009 European bronze medal winner Marijana Miskovic.
In the under 70kg class, yet again it is a German who looks to be the woman to beat as Laura Vargas Koch arrives in Croatia in impressive form following a European bronze and world silver this year, and she will be up against compatriot Iljana Marzok who won the Miami Grand Prix earlier this year and home star, 18-year-old Barbara Matic.
Beijing 2008 bronze medallist and Asian champion Jeong Gyeong-Mi of South Korea and Great Britain's Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons are expected to be not too far away when the gold medal is being handed out in the under 78kg class, while Germany's Jasmin Kuelbs is the top seed here in Rijeka in the plus 78kg category, where she will face stiff competition from Beijing Olympic bronze medallist and reigning European champion Lucija Polavder of Slovenia and Great Britain's Moscow Grand Slam bronze medallist Sarah Adlington.
Meanwhile, in the men's competitions, world number eight and former European champion Beslan Mudranov of Russia is expected to be the man to beat in the under 60kg category, while Moscow Grand Slam silver medallist Colin Oates will be looking to carry on his good form in the under 66kg class but he is sure to face big obstacles in the form of two-time Asian champion Choi Gwang-Hyeon of South Korea and Pan American Championship bronze medallist Bolen Bradford of the United States.
European champion Rok Draksic of Slovenia will be brimming with confidence in the under 73kg class following a great year which will also see Ghana's Emmanuel Nartey compete fresh from his bronze at the Asian Open Taipei last week, while four-time Asian Championship medallist Bang Gui-Man of South Korea is sure to feature heavily.
Hopes will be high of a home win in the under 81kg category as Tomislav Marijanovic takes to the tatami hoping to build on his bronze medal at the Mediterrean Games in June, where he will be up against the likes of Miami Grand Prix winner Tom Reed of Great Britain, Russia's European Open bronze medallist Maksim Buga and former East Asian Games winner Lee Seungsu of South Korea.
After finishing a career best fifth at the Rio World Championships, Sweden's Joakim Dvarby will be full of confidence going into battle in the under 90kg category where Mongolian Grand Prix winner Alexander Grigorev will be expected to feature heavily.
Another Swede will be looking to win top honours in the under 100kg class, in the form of Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Martin Pacek with the Czech Republic's Michal Horak and Tallinn European Open silver medallist Mikhail Kosyashnikov of Russia also expected to be in contention.
Reigning Tokyo Grand Slam bronze medallist Jean-Sebastien Bonvoisin of France is expected to battle it out with Russia's former Moscow Grand Slam silver medallist Soslan Bostanov and Romanian Daniel Natea for top honours in the over 100kg category.
To watch the latest action on JudoTV click here.
Photos©JF Media Team by T. Zahonyi
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