September 27 - Almaty in Kazakhstan is the next port of call for the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Tour as 152 competitors from 13 countries will battle it out on the tatami of the Almaty Sports Palace this coming weekend.
"In the name of our Federation President, I am glad to welcome you in Almaty for this first Judo Grand Prix in Kazakhstan," said Marat Myktybekov, vice-President of the Kazakhstan Judo Federation (KJF) on the eve of the competition.
"I wish good luck to all delegations and I am convinced that you will all have a good impression about your stay in our city and our country.
"Our first and main task is to attract people to come to our country and to reach a very good level of judo.
"Our team did everything possible to make this event a success.
"This year, the event is taking place in Almaty, but we do hope that next year, it will be held in our capital city, Astana, when we will benefit of a brand new sports palace."
In all there will be 14 weight categories contested over the two days of action tomorrow and Sunday (September 29) as judoka continue to get back to the nitty-gritty of the World Tour following the World Championships in Rio last month.
Home favourites, 2012 Kazakh national champion Aigul Baikuleva and 2012 Tashkent World Cup winner Alexandra Podryadova will be among the favourites in the women's under 48 kilogrammes category while Pan-American Open winner Raquel Silva of Brazil will face tough competition in the under 52kg class from world number 10, Ilse Heylen of Belgium and Israeli's Gili Cohen and Roni Scwartz.
Brazilian women are also expected to be the dominant forces in the under 63kg class through top seed Mariana Silva and Mariana Barros while 2008 Olympic gold medallist and Moscow Grand Slam silver medal winner Ketleyn Quadros will be tough to beat in the under 57kg competition.
Israel national champion and European Open runner-up Lior Wildikan is expected to feature prominently in the under 70kg class but is sure to face a tough challenge from Dinara Kudarova who will be hoping to get the home crowd cheering as the battle commences while Albina Amangeldiyeva will also be looking to whip up a frenzy in the Almaty Sports Palace when she goes up against Russian rivals Anastasiya Dmitrieva and Alena Kachorovskaya in the under 78kg class.
The final women's competition of the weekend could well see home competitors challenging strongly for podium places also, in the form of 2009 Continental champion Gulzhan Issanova and Ruza Dukhturbayeva with Mongolia's Javzmaa Odkhuu and Maryna Slutskaya of Belarus expected to feature strongly in the over 78kg event.
In the men's competitions, top seed Yeldos Smetov will carry the hopes of the home support in the under 60kg class, but he will have to overcome some tough opponents in the shape of Dusseldorf Grand Prix silver medallist Diego Santos of Brazil and Mongolian Kherlen Ganbold.
Russia's Kazan 2013 Universiade bronze medallist Yakub Shamilov, Brazilian veteran Leandro Cunha, Tbilisi European Open winner Dzmitry Shershan of Belarus and Mongolia's Batgerel Battsetseg are the men to watch in the under 66kg category.
Another Mongolian, Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar, an Olympic bronze medallist at Athens in 2004, is the top seed in the under 73kg class, as is his compatriot Uuganbaatar Otgonbaatar will be looking to upset home star Dauletkhan Zhakypov in the under 81kg categlory.
In the under 90kg competition, Islam Bozbayev will be hoping to repeat his 2011 World Cup victory on home soil but will be up against Pan American Championship bronze medallist Eduardo Silva of Brazil.
Kazakhstan has got another strong gold medal hope in the under 100kg category as 2009 world champion Maxim Rakov is the top seed and will be looking to build on his bronze at the Tokyo Grand Slam earlier this year.
Top seed in the men's over 100kg is 2013 Universiade bronze medallist David Moura who has also picked up medals at this year's Baku Grand Slam and Dusseldorf Gran Prix, while Sindelfingen European Open winner Aliaksandr Vakhaviak of Belarus, London 2012 Olympian Iurii Krakovetskii of Kyrgzstan and Kazakhstan's Yerzhan Shynkeyev will be the Brazilian's biggest threats.
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