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Thursday, February 29, 2024

What to expect at day 2 of the Zagreb Grand Prix

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Many other juniors will be aiming to make their first splash at senior level on the World Judo Tour. The USA’s Jack Yonezuka, already a junior world bronze medallist, ascended to number 1 in the -73kg junior world rankings with a gold at the inaugural Skopje European Cup less than a week ago. Like older brother Nick at U81kg, he is already a regular on the international circuit, but is yet to take a major senior medal.U81kg Brazil’s Guilherme Schimidt has seen a return to form recently, after going almost a year without a World Tour medal. In Budapest he surprised everyone, beating both the current world champion Grigalashvili (GEO) and the current Olympic champion Nagase (JPN) en route to taking -81kg silver. He comes to Zagreb as the favourite and faces a thrilling potential final with number two seed Albayrak (TUR), should they both win through.The hosts’ medal hopes don’t end there, however. The one-two attack of Iva Oberan and Katarina Kristo at -63kg will be fighting for their 4th and 2nd World Tour medals, respectively.Croatia’s performance at its flagship judo event has improved with each edition since 2018, culminating in a 9th place finish in the medal rankings in 2022. This result was thanks, in part, to the country’s history-makers at -70kg, double world champion Barbara Matic, and world silver medallist Lara Cvjetko, Matic’s opponent in the 2022 Tashkent World Championships final. Both made it onto the podium at the Arena Zagreb in 2022, Matic struck gold, Cvjetko won bronze, and both are back again this year, hoping to inspire the team to climb the standings once again. With these judoka seeded 1 and 2, respectively, the two good friends and training partners will look to give the home crowd another all-Croatian final to cheer for.Fifteen athletes who finished inside the top 8 of the Budapest Masters in their respective categories will be back in action this weekend at the Grand Prix in Zagreb. Expect some dominant performances and also plenty of surprises.Many younger athletes present in Zagreb have had their first taste of silverware on the IJF World Tour in 2023 and will see this event as a great opportunity to continue their upward trajectories and their quests for Olympic qualification.

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