First and foremost, there was a gold medal for Anna-Maria Wagner of Germany in the category under 78 kg. Wagner had a terrific day and powered through all competition to take her first ever Grand Prix gold medal and raise the flag for Germany. Anna is on great form at the moment, clinching two medals in only two weeks’ time - We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for the tall uchi-mata specialist.
In the same category, Bernadette Graf of Austria just missed out on a podium spot placing 5th. Graf is really starting to gain ground in the -78 kg category and has been fighting for a medal in all competitions she has participated in this year. We are sure that this 5th place will be swapped for a medal next time.
One of the top stories this weekend, was Robert Florentino of the Dominican Republic, who made history by winning a bronze medal in the category under 90 kg - The first ever medal for a Dominican Republic male athlete at an IJF Grand Prix. The only 21 years old Florentino showed powerful judo throughout the whole day and also the bronze medal match was won in style - With a massive ippon. We are sure, that this is just the beginning for the young Florentino.
There was as well a bronze medal for the experienced Hedvig Karakas of Hungary in the category under 57 kg. Karakas shows time after time, that she is one of the most consistent players in the -57 kg category and also this weekend, she managed to show an excellent performance. Apart from a single slip in the quarter final against long-time rival Automne Pavia of France, Karakas won all of her fights in convincing style.
In the category under 60 kg, Jorre Verstraeten of Belgium ended his day with a 5th place, narrowly missing out on a podium spot. Verstraeten had a great performance throughout the day and won all of his matches by ippon, up until the semifinal, where he unfortunately fell short against the number one seed, Ukrainian Artem Lesiuk. In the fight for the the bronze medal, Verstraeten did again show great judo but unfortunately was not able to get the win. Verstraeten picked up an injury at the Paris Grand slam and we are happy to see, that he is already back on track and was able to deliver such a good performance shortly after his injury.
In the same category, also Ashley McKenzie of Great Britain ended with a 5th place. McKenzie, as well, showed a great performance and did like Verstraeten, win all of his preliminary fights by ippon, bringing him to the semifinal stage. Unfortunately, McKenzie ended his day just outside of the podium, but as well a great performance from the GB judoka.
Bilal Ciloglu of Turkey, did as well just miss the podium and ended his day with a 5th place in the category under 73 kg. After convincing wins in the preliminary rounds, Ciloglu could find himself in the semifinal, against the experienced Denis Iartcev of Russia. A very hard-fought match, which went not less than four minutes into Golden score. Unfortunately, it did not end in favour of Ciloglu and as well did the bronze medal match. Nevertheless, a great performance from the only 20 years young Junior World Champion, who once again showed that he already belongs at senior level.
An unfortunate ending to a great day for both Verstraeten, McKenzie and Ciloglu, but all three guys showed terrific judo and we are sure, that we will see them back on the podium very shortly.
Additionally, there was a 7th place for Reka Pupp of Hungary in the -52 kg category.
Overall, a very successful weekend for the Ippon Gear team, a first gold medal for Anna Maria Wagner, Robert Florentino making history for Dominican Republic and seeing Jorre Verstraeten back on the mat, was just a few of the top highlights of this tournament.
Next weekend, there will be another challenge for the athletes, as the third Grand Slam of the year will take place in Ekaterinburg, Russia.