Another week, another Grand Slam and another chance for the squad to claim more medals as GB Judo travel to the first Dusseldorf Grand Slam.
Recently upgraded to a Grand Slam, Dusseldorf always attract a world class field and the team of 14 making the trip to Germany will need to demonstrate solid judo throughout the weekend in order to make the podium in the ISS Dome.
It was a weekend of near misses last year with four 5th placed finishes for the squad with Ashley McKenzie (-60kg), Ben Fletcher (-100kg), Lucy Renshall (-63kg) and Natalie Powell (-78kg) all losing out in the bronze medal contests.
Coming in at the -48kg, Kelly Staddon, the European Under-23 Bronze medallist is beginning to find her feet at senior level competition and will be looking to utilise her experiences gained at top level junior competition to help her progress this weekend. She will be taking on Amber Gersjes from Netherlands in the opening round.
At -57kg, Nekoda Smythe-Davis is looking to continue her strong recent form which has seen her place in six of the seven events she has entered since returning from long-term injury. It has been a remarkable turnaround for Smythe-Davis and this was emphasised further by picking up a bronze medal at the Paris Grand Slam. She will be top seeded in the category and will come up against American judoka Shadi Ebrahim in the opening round
Lucy Renshall will be the sole GB entrant at -63kg. She has achieved two fifth place finishes in Tunis and Paris so far this year so will be looking for a podium finish in Dusseldorf. Renshall will be seeded third for the competition with Kiyomi Watanabe (PHI) her opening round opponent.
Following a late withdrawal by Sally Conway in the -70kg category Wolverhampton’s Gemma Howell will be looking to bring home a medal. Howell has enjoyed a strong start to 2018 with a bronze medal at the first Grand Prix of the year in Tunis. A win which saw Howell join Conway in the World’s Top 20. Germany’s Sarah Maekleburg is her 1st round opponent with a potential tough match against top seeded Yuri Alvear (COL) awaiting in the following round.
At -78kg Natalie Powell will be looking to claim her second Dusseldorf medal, following a bronze in 2014, and fifth places in 2016 and 2017. The Welsh judoka has her eyes back on the World No.1 spot after briefly topping the rankings in December 2017. Maike Ziech (GER) is her first round contest, an opponent that Powell owns a 2-0 winning record against.
Edinburgh judoka Sarah Adlington enjoyed a stellar 2017 at +78kg with three Grand Prix medals over the course of 2017. She has received a bye in the first round with Germany’s Samira Bouizgarne awaiting in the second round.
Our first medallist from the Paris Grand Slam, Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) will come up against Yerzhan Yerenkaiypov (KAZ) in his first contest. It was a tremendous weekend for the Camberley judoka on the mat in Paris which underlined his growing consistency at top level competition with his current WRL at No.15.
James Martin (-66kg) will be making his Grand Slam debut with his previous best international finish coming at at the London European Cup as he placed 7th back in 2015. In his return to competition, he will take on Kyrgyzstan’s Artur Te.
Danny Williams will make his first Grand Slam appearance in over eight years as he takes to the mat in the -73kg category. This will be William’s first international competition of 2018 after a 2nd round exit at The Hague Grand Prix back in November 2017. Following a bye into the second round, William’s will come up against the winner of Armenia’s Arsen Ghazaryan and Saian Ondar (RUS).
Stuart McWatt and Owen Livesey headline the GB contingent in the -81kg category. McWatt is making the recent step up from Junior competition, but has demonstrated that he can compete with the best after a 7th placed finish in the Zagreb Grand Prix in September 2017. Livesey’s best result of last year came at the Bratislava European Cup where he narrowly missed out on top spot with a silver medal. This category will be one of the busiest of the weekend with 49 confirmed entrants. Livesey will be taking on Spain’s Alfonso Urquiza Solana with McWatt coming up against Mexico’s Samuel Ayala.
Jamal Petgrave and Frazer Chamberlain (-90kg) will be looking for a strong year in 2018 with hopes of pressing for a place in the European Championships squad. Both have shown glimpses of their potential with a good opportunity in Dusseldorf to demonstrate this further. Chamberlain has received a bye into the second round with a potential match against either USA’s Matthew Koch or Japan’s Yusuke Kobayashi. Petgrave, on the other hand, will face off against Poland’s Rafal Kozlowski.
At +100kg, Andrew Melbourne makes his return to international competition. The British Champion is making his first appearance of the year following his domestic triumph and will be looking to translate his form into international success. A tricky opening round match awaits Melbourne as he clashes with Korea’s World.13 Sungmin Korea.