A decade ago, Croatia would have been considered a small judo country, but this is in the past and it is not the case any more. The victory of Barbara Matic during the last edition of the World Championships, in Budapest in June, just before the Tokyo Olympics, is the proof that Croatia is a country that counts on the World Judo Tour.
After the Olympic Games in Tokyo a new Olympic cycle started and the battle for taking a better position on IJF World Ranking List began again, with the aim of giving every judoka a fair chance to realise a dream to compete and win an Olympic or world medal.
The Croatian Judo Federation has been focusing on shaping an event that you will remember, promoting our sport as a modern and dynamic combat sport with many values and putting Zagreb under the spotlights.
The best promotion though are the performances of the athletes, not just the Croatians with some potential medallists such as Marko Kumric, Iva Oberan and Lara Cvjetko.
In the women’s division some strong athletes will appear such as Andrea Stojadinov and Milica Nikolic from Serbia. World Ranked #7 Astride Gneto is the number one seed U52kg. Slovenian Kaja Kajzer showed herself with offensive judo at the Olympic Gamea finishing fifth and this Grand Prix could be gold for her. Slovenia always have a strong team and Andreja Leski is poised to win the U63kg category. Another Slovenian Anka Pogacnik is #1 seed U70kg but Cvjetko (CRO) is expected to be strong at home as well as the British participant may surprise. Not many participants U78kg, missing Karla Prodan but with strong Dutch contenders. Julia Tolofua (FRA) will be the one to beat +78kg.
In the men’s competition the competition is always tougher with a few strong Moldovan athletes but the eyecatcher is Tato Grigalashvili of Georgia, the World Championships finalist who finished fifth at the Olympic Games. Also the Azeri team is expected to take some medals with Mammadali Mehdiyev and Hidayet Heydarov, back at this beloved U73kg category. The Russians will definitely fight for gold such as Arman Adamian U100kg, can he resist Dutchman Simeon Catarina this time? Catarina may face Marko Kumric in the quarter finals as both are seeded as number 2 and 7. We will see the draw on Thursday afternoon. A mix of countries are seeded +100kg led by Jur Spijkers (NED). A clash of some pure heavyweights and more athletic type fighters.