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Monday, April 15, 2024

Sagi Muki wins fourth career Grand Prix

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The wins kept coming faster and faster from the Israeli; he launched Kopecky (CZE) with that trusty sode just 20 seconds into their quarter-final match. The Czech judoka didn’t know what had hit him.The final bronze medal of the day was contested by Albayrak and Svidrak. With both players being such powerful throwers, the fight was open and engaging and it was the young Ukrainian who got the better of his vastly more experienced opponent. He threw Albayrak with a quick ko-uchi-gari halfway through, for waza-ari. He followed up with a soto-makikomi to score a second time. Svidrak takes his second grand prix medal in a row; his rapid rise continues.Muki has been one of the biggest names at U81 kg ever since he moved up to the weight category from U73kg at the end of 2017. Less than two years after moving up, he became world champion in Tokyo in 2019, following multiple wins at grand slam and grand prix events.Israel’s Sagi Muki captured the gold medal at the Grand Prix in Zagreb. His twelfth World Cup victory since 2013, his ninth World Tour gold medal and fourth Grand Prix. His last though was four years ago in Tel Aviv. Medickson Del Orbe Cortorreal (DOM) was his opponent in the final in Zagreb.Muki was fast in his opening match, stepping onto the Arena Zagreb tatami. He faced Sibghatullah (IRT) first, in round 2, and threw his opponent twice in those 2 minutes; first with uchi-mata-sukashi and second with his patented o-soto-gari to sode-tsurikomi-goshi combination. This was unquestionably the Muki of old.Perhaps unexpectedly, the last man standing in Muki’s way was not the number 1 seed Guilherme Schimidt (BRA), nor indeed was it the number 4 seed, Frank de Wit.Del Orbe started in round 1 with a smooth o-uchi-gari scored waza-ari against Mecilosek (SLO) and in round 2 he came from behind against home favourite Druzeta to throw the Croatian with a low tai-otoshi and then uchi-mata-sukashi to score two waza-aris. In the third round, Bonferroni (SUI) was on the end of an o-soto-gari as he stood up from the ground and was then caught in osaekomi by the Dominican Republic’s world number 35. After 5 minutes of quarter-final contest time against Joao Fernando (POR), Del Orbe Cortorreal threw the Portuguese man from his knees with hikikomi-gaeshi for waza-ari.Del Orbe Cortorreal was faced with a semi-final match-up with Mykhailo Svidrak (UKR), whom we highlighted in our preview as one of the many young “disruptors” who were makeing a name for themselves on the IJF World Tour. Svidrak had already beaten Schimidt in their quarter-final, looking sharp throughout the preliminary rounds, but Del Orbe Cortorreal was unfazed by his energetic adversary, throwing him with a superb sumi-gaeshi after only 30 seconds.The two finalists gave us everything we hoped for and more. Del Orbe Cortorreal looked to have perfected his tactics for his seemingly unstoppable opponent. He threw Muki for waza-ari inside 30 seconds with o-soto-gari to ura-nage and appeared to be effectively preventing all of Muki’s favoured attacks. Muki’s confidence never faded, however, and he hassled Del Orbe Cortorreal again and again until he eventually broke through the defences, throwing once again with that unusual seoi-nage and sode-tsurikomi-goshi for two waza-ari scores. Despite his opponent’s best efforts, there was no stopping the Muki train. This was grand prix gold number 4 for the Israeli showman.Since that world title, Muki has struggled to find the same kind of consistency that propelled him to the top of the world rankings and the category.Del Orbe has been a regular on the World Judo Tour for the last 8 years, putting in many good performances but never making it onto the podium. The 27-year-old was on the form of his life; he threw every single one of his five opponents on his way to the final.Schimidt and Gerbekov faced off for the first bronze medal in the category. The Brazilian had taken a tactical win over Fernando (POR) in their repechage contest. The contest was a tense affair that came to life in the final minute. A seoi-otoshi attempt from Schimidt was countered by Gerbekov using sumi-gaeshi, scoring waza-ari with 30 seconds left. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Schimidt appeared to lock Gerbekov’s arm out with juji-gatame but Gerbekov somehow managed to escape the lock and see out the remaining seconds to take his first grand prix medal.Muki took half that time to dispatch Tursunov (UZB) in round 3. He scored waza-ari in 20 seconds with tani-otoshi, countering the Uzbek’s attempt at a forward throw. This was swiftly followed by a crafty ippon-seoi-nage, in which Muki put both hands on the sleeve and hugged Tursunov’s leg with his elbow to drive his opponent into the mat for ippon.Awaiting Muki in the semi-final was powerhouse Askerbii Gerbekov (BRN), who had just beaten number 2 seed Vedat Albayrak (TUR) in the previous round. Despite this, Muki made light work of Gerbekov too, throwing with the aforementioned seoi-nage and sode-o-soto for waza-ari and ippon, respectively.

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