March 27 - International competitors have arrived in the Turkish city of Samsun for the fourth stage of the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Tour 2014, which is due to start tomorrow.
Taking place at the Yaşar Doğu Sports Arena until Sunday (March 30), the tournament will see 355 athletes from 44 nations competing for the titles on offer.
Armen Bagdasarov, Uzbekistan's Olympic judo silver medallist, welcomed the delegations to the city.
"In the name of the IJF President, Mr Marius Vizer, I welcome all of you in the beautiful city of Samsun for this second edition of the event," he said.
"Thank you to the Turkish Judo Federation, its President, Mr Fatih Uysal, and his team, for the great work that has been done so far to host a successful event."
Among the big names competing in Turkey will be Kosovo's World Championships gold medallist Majlinda Kelmendi, who will present a challenge for all those women in the under 52 kilogram class, which includes Romanian Andreea Chițu and German world bronze medallist Romy Tarangul.
The under 63kg weight category will see Israeli world champion and world number one Yarden Gerbi take on the United States' Hannah Martin and Brazilian Mariana Barros, who are both among the top seeded athletes in the class.
Germany's world silver medallist Laura Vargas Koch will be the one to beat in the under 70kg competition, however, she is expected to face a challenge from world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Gévrise Émane of France and Düsseldorf 2014 Grand Prix winner Assmaa Niang of Morocco.
Meanwhile in the men's under 73kg, Georgia's Zebeda Rekhviashvili - who claimed a bronze medallist on home soil at last week's Tbilisi Grand Prix - will be the favourite when he faces Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan and Russian Denis Iartcev.
Yeldos Smetov of Kazakhstan, winner of the first edition of the Almaty Grand Prix in 2013, is the top seeded athlete in the under 60kg class, but Azerbaijani world bronze medallist Ilgar Mushkiyev will put up a fight for the Samsun Grand Prix title as will Russia's Beslan Mudranov, winner of two Grand Prix events last year.
Adam Okruashvili, world number three and winner of last weekend's Grand Prix on home turf, will be the favourite to top the podium in the over 100kg competition, but Egypt's world bronze medallist and double Olympian Islam El Shehaby, 2013 Tashkent Grand Prix winner Andre Breitbarth and Russian Paris bronze medallist Renat Saidov will also be looking to medal.
The opening also included a refereeing seminar for all the Turkish referees and coaches, which provided them with information on all of the rules, as well as demonstrations of examples by IJF refereeing director Bernd Achilles.
"The referees are not policemen," Jan Snijders, the IJF's head refereeing director, said.
"They are here to help the judoka to produce spectacular judo.
"They must let the fight go until something is wrong.
"But after a Paris Grand Slam with many penalties, we were happy to see that in Düsseldorf and Tbilisi more recently, we had many positive scores at the end of the competition, as we reached more than 80 per cent of positive scores such as yuko, waza-ari and of course ippon."
Competition gets underway tomorrow with the opening ceremony, and preliminaries and final block in the women's under 48kg, under 52kg and under 57kg, and men's under 60kg and under 66kg.
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