Azerbaijan have named a 23-strong team of judoka who will represent their country at their home International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo Grand Prix in Baku from 13-14 May.
The event kicks-off the major competition season which will include a European Championships in Genova, Italy, in July.
The Grand Prix hosts are pinning their hopes on several reigning world and Paralympic champions.
In the men’s Bayram Mustafayev returns to the mat following his world title in the up to 66kg in Odivelas, Portugal, in November 2018. He is also a silver medallist from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
In the up to 73kg, Ramil Gasimov is the home favourite as the Paralympic champion and a podium finisher from the Worlds.
Other key contenders include Rovshan Safarov (up to 90kg), a Rio 2016 silver medallist, Huseyn Rahimli (up to 81kg), who picked up silver in Odivelas and Ilham Zakiyev, the current over 100kg European champion.
They will be joined by Murad Aliyev and Vugar Shirinli in the up to 60kg, Namig Abbasli (up to 66kg), Zamaddin Poladov (up to 73kg), Murad Gaziyev (up to 81kg), Ramin Aliyev (up to 90kg), Kanan Abdulakhanli and Kamil Aghayev (up to 100kg).
In the women’s Shahana Hajiyeva impressed at the World Championships with a silver medal in the up to 48kg.
Sevda Veliyeva and Khanum Huseynova will also appear as European title holders. Veliyeva has advanced to the up to 57kg since winning gold in the up to 52kg in Walsall, Great Britain, in 2017. Huseynova has stayed in the up to 63kg where she will try to defend her place as Europe’s best.
Gulnar Gereyeva (up to 48kg), Sabina Abdullayeva and Besti Safarova (up to 52 kg), Afag Sultanova (up to 57kg), Zulfiya Huseynova (up to 70kg) and Khatira Ismiyeva and Dursedef Karimova (over 70kg) round off the women’s team.
Around 280 judoka from 36 countries are expected to get their season underway in Baku in an event that is also supported by the International Judo Federation. Athletes will have the chance to secure qualification points for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
A further Grand Prix in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, will take place this year from 7-8 October. Inbetween there will be the IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, from 2-5 July.
The 2019 IBSA Judo European Championships will offer athletes the chance to grab titles in Genova from 27-28 July. Around 100 athletes from 16 countries are expected to compete.