The IPPONGEAR Team, showcasing a formidable lineup, demonstrated exceptional Judo throughout the competition. On the opening day, Serbian judoka Milica Nikolic clinched an impressive silver medal in the women's under 48 kg category. This accomplishment further solidified her position among the world's top 10 in her weight class.
The second day of the Grand Prix bore witness to the captivating performances of Croatian standout athletes Barbara Matic and Lara Cvjetko. Both fighters battled their way to the finals, capturing the attention of the crowd. Ultimately, the 21-year-old Cvjetko emerged victorious, seizing the gold. Following her third-place finish at the Masters in Budapest just a week prior, her outstanding form proven once again on the home turf.
Adding to the triumphs, Lubjana Piovesana, competing in the women's under 63 kg category, secured a robust bronze medal. Notably, this marked her first medal representing Austria. Having originally hailed from Britain, the 26-year-old athlete switched nationalities and now proudly competes under the Austrian flag.
As the Grand Prix reached its culmination on the final day, the stage was set for the entry of a true judo legend. Lukas Krpalek, a double Olympic and World Champion, took to the mat. At 32 years old, the Czech judoka has ambitions to qualify for the upcoming Olympics in both the under 100 kg and +100 kg weight divisions. While he competed in the under 100 kg category at the Masters in Budapest, he shifted his focus to the +100 kg class for the Zagreb event.
In a display of unwavering dominance, Krpalek secured the gold medal in the +100 kg category, edging closer to his goal of Olympic qualification in both weight divisions.
Hungary's Krisztian Toth also claimed the spotlight with a remarkable achievement, earning his 7th Grand Prix gold medal in the under 90 kg category. This victory served to solidify his place within the world's top 10 judokas in his weight class.
In the same category, Sami Chouchi had his debut on the podium in his new weight division. The charismatic Belgian athlete claimed a bronze medal, marking an important milestone on his journey towards Olympic qualification. This achievement reflects his dedication and potential within the sport.
Amongst those extraordinary triumphs, one cannot overlook the inspiring performance of 19-year-old Yuliia Kurchenko from Ukraine. Competing in the women's under 78 kg category, Kurchenko demonstrated exceptional skill, navigating her way through the field with determination. Although she was on the verge of clinching the gold, a momentary lapse in concentration led to her securing a valiant silver medal.
In the same weight class, former world champion Anna Maria Wagner of Germany showcased her ascending shape. Demonstrating her determination and skill, Wagner secured a well-deserved bronze medal, with her only defeat coming in the quarter-finals against Kurchenko.
Concluding the event, Milica Zabic earned a silver medal in the +78 kg category further. The 29-year-old Serbian judoka's outstanding performance not only added to her personal achievements but also earned her crucial qualification points for the upcoming Games.
The IJF Judo Grand Prix in Zagreb was a another testament to the global appeal and competitive spirit of judo. Athletes from diverse backgrounds and nations came together to showcase their talent, determination, and passion for the sport. As the judo world looks ahead, these performances will help all successful athlete on their path towards the Olympic Games.