More than 200 judoka from around the world opened the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo season in style from 13-14 May, with Uzbekistan and hosts Azerbaijan claiming a combined seven gold medals at the Grand Prix in Baku.
Full results are available at ippon.org
whilst fans can re-live the action in full at IBSA’s YouTube channel.
Headlining an impressive performance for the hosts was 18-year-old Shahana Hajiyeva in the women’s up to 48kg. The teenager – who is the youngest member of her team – toppled China’s Paralympic champion Li Liqing with an incredible de ashi barai to win the final.
Frenchwoman Sandrine Martinet’s quest to top the podium again continues as she left with bronze. The up to 52kg Paralympic title holder shared third place with Uzbekistan’s Lobar Khurramova.
Sevda Valiyeva added to Azerbaijan’s gold medal haul in the women’s up to 57kg. Valiyeva overcame Araq Sultanova in an-all Azeri final. Turkey’s world title holder Zeynep Celik made it into the top three with bronze alongside Uzbekistan’s Parvina Samandarova.
Rounding off the gold medals for the hosts was 2018 World Championships bronze medallist Vugar Shirinli in the men’s up to 60kg.
Shirinli opened the tournament with an impressive win over Paralympic champion Sherzov Namozov of Uzbekistan. His opponent in the final – Romania’s Florin Alexandru Bologa – had himself put in a great performance earlier in the day, felling Kazakhstan’s Worlds gold medallist Olzhas Orazalyuly on his way to the final.
But it was Shirinli who had the edge.
“It was a very difficult match for me, but I came here to prove my strength to everyone and that’s what I did,” Shirinli said. “My next goal is the European Championships in July and my license to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics. That is my ultimate aim – to become a Paralympic champion.”
Turkey’s Recep Ciftci and Orazalyuly claimed bronze.
Uzbekistan also enjoyed a great season-opener with four golds in total to top the medals table.
World champion Feruz Sayidov triumphed in the men’s up to 73kg. Ukraine’s Rufat Mahomedov was second followed by Azerbaijan’s Paralympic gold medallist Ramil Gasimov and Mahomedov’s teammate Serhii Kotenko with bronze.
European silver medallist Davurkhon Karomatov was the victor in the men’s up to 81kg. Azerbaijan’s Huseyn Rahimli collected another medal for the hosts with silver. Russia’s Ruslan Albagachiev was third as Mexico’s Eduardo Sanchez broke the dominance of European and Asian judoka to secure the other bronze.
Uzbekistan added another gold to their haul courtesy of Nafisa Sheripboeva in the women’s up to 63kg.
Sheripboeva beat Russia’s Olga Pozdnysheva to the top spot. Azerbaijan’s Khanim Huseynova shared bronze with China’s Yue Wang.
Shirin Sharipov then dominated in the men’s over 100kg to round off Uzbekistan’s gold medal haul. He beat world champion and top seed Mohammadreza Kheirollahzadeh of Iran to first place. Georgia’s Revaz Chikoidze was third whilst Kento Masaki also secured bronze for Japan.
Italy’s Carolina Costa emerged on top after a gruelling match with China’s world champion Hongyu Wang in the women’s over 70kg. Costa, the Worlds bronze medallist, was not intimidated by the height of Wang as she towered over the Italian.
Wang looked tired and with 13 seconds to go, Costa managed to hold her on the tatami to be awarded an ippon.
Two Brazilians rounded off the podium. Meg Emmerich and Rebeca Silva secured bronze.
The women’s up to 70kg was a rematch of the final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Mexico’s Lenia Ruvalcaba repeated her gold medal-winning performance against Brazilian world champion Alana Martins.
Uzbekistan’s Vasila Aliboeva and Russia’s Olga Zabrodskaia occupied third place on the podium.
Great Britain’s Christopher Skelley won his first gold medal at this level in the men’s up to 100kg, forcing his opponent to tap out.
Russia’s Anatolli Shevchenko did not enjoy Skelley working on his arm and ended the match to hand the British judoka his maiden Grand Prix win.
The USA’s Benjamin Goodrich also enjoyed his best ever finish with bronze. Germany’s Oliver Upmann claimed the other third place.
Ukraine’s world and Paralympic title holder Inna Cherniak proved unstoppable in the women’s up to 52kg. It took her a total of less than two minutes to win all her fights, including the final against Algeria’s Cherine Abdellaoui. Azerbaijan’s Basti Safarova and Uzbekistan’s Sevinch Salaeva were third.
“I feel in very good form. I am happy with the win,” Cherniak said. “Judo is my profession, so each tournament is equally important for me.”
Iran’s Worlds bronze medallist and Asian Para Games champion Vahid Nouri topped the podium in the men’s up to 90kg. Nouri broke the hearts of the home crowd as he overcame Azerbaijan’s Rovshan Safarov. Russia’s Vladimir Fedin and Ukraine’s world title holder Oleksandr Nazarenko were third.
Georgia’s Giorgi Kaldani beat Azerbaijan’s reigning world champion Bayram Mustafayev in the men’s up to 66kg. Rounding off the podium was Mongolia’s Munkhbat Aajim and Azerbaijan’s Namig Abasli.
Next up for judoka is the 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, from 3-5 July. The competition also offers the chance to gain world ranking points towards spots at Tokyo 2020.
Several regional Championships are also taking place in 2019. First up is the IBSA Judo European Championships in Genova, Italy, from 26-28 July.