Nine British judoka will be action this weekend at the final Grand Slam of the qualifying period in Baku, Azerbaijan from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 May.
The Baku Grand Slam has been a happy hunting ground for British judoka in recent years with seven podium finishes in the last three years including gold medals for Colin Oates (-66kg) and Sally Conway (-70kg) in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Conway in particular has enjoyed her time at the Baku Grand Slam medalling in each of the last three competitions progressing from bronze in 2013 to silver a year later before pulling off a big win against World No. 1 Kim Polling (NED) to claim her maiden Grand Slam title a year ago (video of contest below).
Last year’s trip to Baku saw four British judoka finish on the podium with, in addition to Conway’s gold, Oates and Nekoda Davis (-57kg) claiming silver while Alice Schlesinger (-63kg) picked up a bronze medal.
All four return to Azerbaijan in a team where only two members of the team, Owen Livesey (-81kg) and Ben Fletcher (-100kg), haven’t medalled at Grand Slam level and off the back of a successful European Championships in Kazan which saw silver for Oates and bronze for Natalie Powell (-78kg) alongside three fifth place and one seventh place finish
In addition to the British contingent a number of big names will be stepping on the tatami including recently crowned European champions Tina Trstenjak (SLO), Vazha Margvelashvili (GEO) and Rustam Orujov (AZE). The -63kg and -78kg categories are as strong as ever with many of the World’s top ten in action in both weights including Dutch -78 duo Marhinde Verkerk and Guusje Steenhuis and Germany’s Martyna Trajdos (-63kg).
On the men’s side of the draw the -100kg is looking particularly strong with 2015 World silver medallist Karl-richard Frey (GER) hoping to pick up another big result in his first competition since his bronze at the Paris Grand Slam while Japan’s -81kg World Champion Takanori Nagase will be the man to beat though up and coming talents in Ivaylo Ivanov (BUL) and Frank de Wit (NED) will be worth keeping an eye on.
On the opening day Nekoda Davis (-57kg), Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) and Colin Oates (-66kg) will be in action from 0700 GMT live on ippon.tv and you can check out the full draw on ippon.org. You can follow all the action live on @BritishJudo on Twitter and don’t forget to tweet your support to #WeAreGBJudo