Victories of Tasoev and Adamyan

Abu Dhabi hosted the penultimate Grand Slam judo tournament of the year. And it was traditionally attended by a large number of athletes, since the maximum number of rating points necessary for qualification for the Olympics in Paris is up for grabs at the competitions. This time, 450 athletes from 77 countries took to the tatami, including 26 representatives of Russia, performing in a neutral status.

It should be noted that not all the strongest judokas of the Old World went to the UAE: next week the European Championships will be held in Montpellier, and some decided to skip the start in Asia. Nevertheless, about 30 judokas from the top 10 of the world ranking in different weight categories gathered among the participants.

Russian athletes also plan to go to France, however, judging by the composition, the coaching staff still put the competitions in Abu Dhabi in the first place. At least if we talk about the men's heavyweight categories: world champions Inal Tasoev and Arman Adamyan, as well as two-time winner of the European Championship Mikhail Igolnikov competed at the Grand Slam tournament. The latter could not prove himself in the UAE, losing at an early stage. But the leaders of the national team were on top again, bringing the national team two gold medals.

This is not to say that everything was easy for them. So, on the way to the decisive fight in the weight category up to 100 kg, Adamyan had an exhausting fight with the Dutchman Michael Correl, which ended only in the sixth minute of the golden score, when the catch of the domestic athlete reached the goal. And in the fight for the first place, Arman coped with the European champion Alexander Kukol thanks to the hook.

"I'm calm about success. At the World Cup, of course, there were completely different emotions. As you may have noticed, I am the smallest in my weight, so I practice my technique taking this feature into account. We already met with the Serb two years ago, he is a very experienced opponent. But we managed to catch him on a mistake," Adamyan said, talking to journalists.

In the weight category over 100 kg, Tasoev competed with Georgian Saba Inaneishvili and Germany's Losseni Kone. And in the final, Inal got even with the German Erik Abramov, who knocked out Tamerlan Bashaev from the competition.

The bronze medalist of the Tokyo Olympics for the second tournament in a row was content only with a fight for bronze, in which he had to fight with Inaneishvili. To the delight of the Russian fans, the Georgian again capitulated to the domestic athlete. At the same time, Bashaev was dissatisfied with the result shown in Abu Dhabi.

"Third place may be an achievement for someone, but for me it is already the minimum that I have to achieve in the international arena. And the minimum doesn't make me very happy. It's very difficult now. Two or three years ago, it was easier. But my opponents studied me, worked on my mistakes, and Abramov's actions in the semifinals were homework," Bashaev admitted.

Taimazova's Success

Madina Taymazova, unlike her colleagues in the national team, is going to participate in the European Championship. And before the trip to Montpellier, she won her third Grand Slam gold, defeating Sweden's Ida Eriksson in the weight category up to 70 kg. The leader of the national team attacked a lot and managed to create a three-shido advantage for herself, which allowed her to climb to the top step of the podium.

"Winning the final was very important for me. There are not many tournaments left, we need to score as many points as possible at each one to qualify for the 2024 Games. It's been a long time since I've fought, I haven't won, and now I feel the taste of victory again. We hadn't met my opponent before, so I decided to play with her carefully, tactically, not to take risks. This is the final and one mistake can deprive you of gold," the official website of the Russian Judo Federation quotes Taimazova as saying.

At the same time, according to the athlete, she always watches videos of her performances and tries to work on her mistakes at home. But this time the most difficult thing was to tune in to the final.

"Everything was sorted out with the coaches before the fight. The main thing was to turn off her working arm, take the initiative and complete the assigned tasks. I wouldn't say that the opponent was difficult – the final turned out to be difficult, for which you need to prepare in a new way after the break... Before the tournament, I was on the 32nd line in the world ranking, and on the 20th in the Olympic ranking.

Another gold medal was brought to the Russian national team in the weight category up to 81 kg by David Karapetyan. He won his first Grand Slam medal, beating some very tough opponents on his way to the final. The European junior champion was stronger than the Austrian Shamil Borchashvili and the Italian Giovanni Esposito, and in the decisive fight he surpassed the medalist of the world championship Frank de Vita. The 23-year-old judoka managed to lay the Dutchman on his side and earn a waza-ari. That was enough to win.

According to Karapetyan, it took him a long time to achieve this victory. Although he sets the highest bar for himself - medals at the World Championships and the Olympics.

"I had a string of defeats and the trophy was getting further and further in my head. But today it worked: I pulled myself together, worked hard, worked on my mistakes – and here is the result. I go into a fight to fight under a certain model, regardless of who my opponent is. This time the opponent was not easy. The task was to stall for time. As soon as I felt the opportunity, I attacked. It's good that the final ended with my victory. I'm satisfied," the judoka admitted.

A scattering of bronze medals

Ayub Bliev also won a medal at Grand Slam tournaments for the first time. However, the lightweight was limited to bronze. In the semifinals, the Russian was stopped by Brazilian Matheus Takaki. As the domestic athlete admitted, he himself made a mistake in the very first seconds of the fight.

"I started doing the trick, but I went in the wrong direction, and at that step he caught me," Bliev explained.

In the fight for bronze, Ayub was already flawless. Without any problems, he coped with the winner of the Paris Grand Slam Kamoliddin Bakhtiyorov from Uzbekistan.

"It was the first time we met with the opponent in the small final. He's a pretty tough guy, I knew it was going to be a full-fledged fight. As a result, we managed to win tactically and fulfill the minimum program. Of course, I wanted gold, but for now I will be content with bronze," Bliev said.

In the weight category over 78 kg, the third place was taken by Alice Startseva. The first attempt to win a Grand Slam medal was in Baku, but then she lost in the small final to Larisa Tserich. Ironically, it was the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina who got the Russian as a rival in Abu Dhabi. This time, the domestic athlete managed to take revenge.

Two more bronze medals were won by spouses Ksenia Galitskaya and Makhmadbek Makhmadbekov. For the judoka, this is the second medal of this value in the category up to 57 kg at Grand Slam tournaments. In Abu Dhabi, Germany's Pauline Stark became a stumbling block on the way to gold, who managed to hold on to the golden score.

"Stupid mistake. I accept this defeat with dignity and will work on this gap," Galitskaya admitted.

In the fight for bronze, the Russian did not have any difficulties. Two successful throws brought her a confident victory over the German Seija Bolhaus.

Much more was expected at the tournament from Ksenia's husband, Mahmadbek, who has already won five gold medals at the World Tour competitions in the category up to 73 kg. However, in the quarterfinals, Azerbaijan's Rashid Mammadaliev blocked his way, gaining the upper hand in the golden score.

"He also hit me in the eye. Strongly. Even my head was spinning. Naturally, I went to the UAE only for gold. We need to win medals, score points for the Olympics and prepare for it. I am sure that such an experience as in Abu Dhabi will make me stronger," Mahmadbek admitted.

Fortunately, the injury did not affect Makhmadbekov's further performance. In the small final, he defeated the Asian champion Daniyar Shamshaev ahead of schedule, making a hold.

In the overall standings, the tournament was officially won by the Italian national team (3-0-0). However, if the results of the Russians were taken into account, then they would be on the first line with four gold and five bronze medals.