Croatian Female Sensations Gunning for Gold
In less than a year, 14 new Olympic judo champions will be crowned in Paris. However, while there is only room for that many new champions, the number of contenders on the hunt for gold medals is higher than ever before. The next qualifying event is the Zagreb Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend commencing August 18th in the Croatian capital, and 542 of the planet’s finest judokas will battle it out in a bid to collect precious points to qualify for next summer’s Paris Games. When it comes to which countries have been the most successful, you won’t be surprised to hear that Japan comes out on top with a whopping 14 titles in the nine previous editions of the tournament. Led by the aforementioned Velenšek and Trstenjak, it is the Slovenians who come in a respectable second place (13) with the French coming in third (12). While they may lie in third place in terms of titles, Les Bleus currently sit atop the total medals table with a whopping 43 to their name. Russia is positioned in second six medals adrift, with the Netherlands a further four medals behind.Over in the male realm, veteran Czech Republic star Lukáš Krpálek is a perennial challenger, and he will be on the hunt for gold once more. It’s currently unknown as to which weight class the 32-year-old will be competing in, however. It is known that the double Olympic Champion wants to qualify for both U100kg and +100kg categories in next summer’s Paris games, an achievement that no judoka has ever completed ever before, and it’s something that would leave him head and shoulders above his competitors should he manage complete the vaunted feat.
Potential Heavyweight Male Clash
The Croats boast a combat sports superstar in the form of 28-year-old sensation Barbara Matic. She has proven time and again that she will always have a stake in the medals, however, as we’ve seen at the recent Masters event, her compatriot and good friend Lara Cjvetko is on good form and will also be gunning for gold. At the aforementioned World Masters which recently took place in Budapest, she proved that she is a contender once more as she secured the bronze medal in the U70kg category and she is still in the race for the Paris Games.While the previously mentioned Croatian pairing is in the race for glory this summer, the most successful athlete in the history of the Croatian Grand Prix is veteran Slovenian powerhouse Anamari Velenšek. The 32-year-old has won the prestigious tournament five times and took six medals back to Ljubljana, far more than any of her adversaries. Only her compatriot and the iconic Tina Trstenjak comes close with four medals – three of which were golden – the same numbers as Krisztian Toth of Hungary.
All Roads Lead to Paris
All the delegations are already looking to the future and the future is Paris 2024, despite the Zagreb Grand Prix being just around the corner. There is still a full calendar year between now and the next Olympic Games but everyone knows that qualifying for the showdown in the French capital is going to require a herculean effort in each category. With the points of the Masters already decided, the picture is almost painted, but this month’s showdown in the Croatian capital will certainly prove which competitors are going to be safe, and which ones are in danger of missing out next summer. With less than a year to go until Paris 2024, strategy is an important element in the preparation, and there is no room for error at each event.