Rufat Ismayilov claimed hosts Azerbaijan’s first gold medal of the International Judo Federation (IJF) Grand Slam in Baku today by winning the men’s under 81 kilograms title at the Heydar Aliyev Arena.
The 20-year-old beat Asian Championships bronze medallist Saeid Mollaei of Iran in the final, immediately scoring a waza-ari with a drop seoi-nage and maintaining his advantage for the remainder of the contest.
Ismayilov’s appearance alone in the gold medal match ensured his first-ever IJF World Judo Tour podium finish.
Mongolia’s Uuganbaatar Otgonbaatar beat Bulgaria’s Ivaylo Ivanov in the first bronze medal match, while the second saw Japan’s Kenya Kohara defeat Hungary’s Attila Ungvari.
In the men’s under 73kg category, Mongolia’s Odbayar Ganbaatar captured Grand Slam gold for the first time as he overcame double world champion and London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Riki Nakaya of Japan.
The World Judo Masters silver medallist countered a reverse seoi-nage with te-waza for a waza-ari and that provided enough for success with Nakaya unable to find a way onto the scoreboard before the four minutes elapsed.
Number one seed Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan defeated Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili in the first bronze medal match before Hungary’s Miklos Ungvari got the better of home favourite Hidayat Heydarov in the second.
On the women’s side of competition, world number 12 Alice Schlesinger of Great Britain defended the under 63kg title she won last year with a mature performance against Tunis African Open silver medallist Andreja Leski of Slovenia.
Schlesinger marked her post-Olympic return by seeing off the world number 63 on the ground, trapping the body of her opponent and then working an arm-lock until the 20-year-old was forced to submit.
Turkey’s Busra Katipoglu won the first bronze medal at the expense of Azerbaijan’s Nuriyya Akhundova, while Khanim Huseynova won an all-Azeri clash against the disqualified Gulsadaf Karimova to take the second.
Today’s other winner was Colombia’s Yuri Alvear, the triple world champion and double Olympic medallist who topped the women’s under 70kg podium for her first Grand Slam gold medal.
The 30-year-old made it five wins from five contests against Paris Grand Slam medallist Elvismar Rodriguez of Venezuela, throwing her opponent after 23 seconds with a ko-soto-gake for the maximum score.
"I’m very happy to finally win a Grand Slam having won three World Championships," said Alvear, who will head to Tokyo next week for a training camp.
"I have wanted this medal for a while and I am very pleased to start my year like this.
"I will now train in Japan and then return for the Pan American Championships and future challenges as I hope to win many more medals, including a Grand Prix and a World Judo Masters which I am yet to achieve."
Croatia’s Barbara Matic and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Aleksandra Samardzic were the bronze medallists, defeating Kazakhstan’s Zere Bektaskyzy and Azerbaijan’s Valida Mirzazada respectively.
Action in Baku is due to conclude tomorrow when the men’s under 90kg, under 100kg and over 100kg categories, and women’s under 78kg and over 78kg divisions are due to take centre stage.
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