It promises to be an exciting weekend in the Middle East as the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam returns!
A team of six British athletes will be looking to earn valuable Olympic qualifying points in one of the toughest competitions on the IJF calendar.
Natalie Powell claimed Gold here in the -78kg competition last year which saw her catapulted to Britain’s first ever World No.1 and she will return again to the same venue with hopes of repeating her heroics on the mat. Powell enters the competition as the No.2 seed with long term rival Guusje Steenhuise (NED) in top spot. It will be a high class -78kg competition, with eight of the top 20 WRL athletes scheduled to compete on the day. Powell has had a consistent 2018 with bronze medal wins at the European Championships, Dusseldorf Grand Slam, and Budapest & Antalya Grand Prix which has seen her maintain her position amongst the World’s elite athletes. With a bye in the opening round, Powell will take on the winner of the opening round contest between Poland’s Beata Pacut and China’s Cong Sun.
Chelsie Giles (-52kg) will look to get the squad off to a flying start on Saturday in what looks to be a wide open weight category. With none of the World’s Top 10 entered in Abu Dhabi, Giles enters the competition as the No.8 seed with America’s World No.11 Angelica Delgado top seeded. It has been a landmark year for Giles on the mat as she claimed her first Grand Prix medals of her career with a Silver in Antalya and a Bronze in Budapest. Giles has proved her grit and determination on a number of occasions with wins over several higher ranked opponents this year including several entrants this weekend with the likes of Evelyne Tschopp (SUI) and Karolina Pienkowska (POL) all falling to the young Brit. With a bye in the opening round, Giles will come up against Hong Kong’s Shuk Ki Tsui.
Alice Schlesinger and Lubjana Piovesana will go in the -63kg competition on Saturday morning. Piovesana was in imperious form in Cancun earlier this month as she narrowly missed out on a bronze medal to compatriot Amy Livesey. Victory over Austria’s Kathrin Unterwurzacher set the tone for the day as Piovesana’s strength came to the fore with a number of big throws as she progressed through the rounds. The Orenburg European Cup saw her pick up her first Gold of the year as she became the first British Gold medallist at the competition since 2010 to compliment a hugely impressive Tbilisi Grand Prix Bronze medal along with Gold in the Minsk European Open. These results have seen Piovesana move into the Worlds Top 30 and a positive result this weekend could see her progress further. On paper it is a tough draw for the Brit as she takes on Spain’s Isabel Puche with Andreja Leski (SLO) laying in wait in the second round.
Alice Schlesinger has had an injury-hit 2018 which has seen her restricted to just three competitive appearances this year. With a best placed finish of fifth at the European Senior Championships earlier this year, Schlesinger still holds a World Ranking of 13 so will be looking for a podium finish this weekend to maintain her position. She will take on USA’s Hannah Martin in the opening round, with a 2-0 winning record against the American.
Paris Grand Slam champion Sally Conway will be looking to break inside the World’s Top Ten in the -70kg category once again as she looks for a first medal in Abu Dhabi since 2013. Conway has enjoyed another stellar season on the World Circuit, placing in each of the six events that she has competed in this year. A first Paris Grand Slam title started the year and she quickly added a Silver at the European Championships to compliment Bronze medals in Antalya, Zagreb and Budapest. The -70kg competition promises to be one of the most competitive of the weekend with six of the top ten entered. Anna Bernholm (SWE) enters as the No.1 seed, but Conway can take confidence from the fact that she defeated the Swedish judoka on the way to claiming Gold in Paris. She has received a bye into the second round of the competition and will take on the winner of the opening round contest between China’s Hongyan Liu and Australia’s Aoife Coughlan.
Max Stewart makes his return to the mat in the -90kg competition in Abu Dhabi after a third round exit in the World Championships last month. He will be making just his fifth appearance since last August due to a period of time away from the mat. Since his return, he has secured a fifth placed finish at the Zagreb Grand Prix. His previous best finish in Abu Dhabi came back in 2016 as he narrowly finished outside of the medals places. He will be taking on Kyrgyzstan’s Faruch Bulekulov in the second round following a bye in the opening stage. A potential meeting with Serbia’s World No.2 could await Stewart in the Quarter Final should he progress past the second round.
Catch all of the action LIVE on the British Judo website from 8:00am on Saturday/Monday morning and 7:00am on Sunday morning. Follow our British Judo social media channels for full live text commentary throughout the days!