Following a short break in Grand Slam competition, GB Judo will be hoping to hit the ground running this weekend as the team takes to the mat for the Yekaterinburg Grand Slam in Russia.
Promising displays in recent major events for the likes of Amy Livesey (5th in the -63kg in the Antalya Grand Prix), Lubjana Piovesana (Bronze in the -63kg in Antalya), Alice Schlesinger (Bronze in the -63kg at the European Championships and Gold at the Baku Grand Slam) and Natalie Powell (Bronze in the -78kg at the European Championships) sees GB Judo in a strong position to challenge for major events throughout the Tokyo Cycle.
Livesey and Powell are joined on the mat in Russia by Kelly Edwards (-52kg), Max Stewart (-90kg) and Ben Fletcher (-100kg). Schlesinger was originally scheduled to compete but has been ruled out with a shoulder injury.
In the first day of competition on Saturday, Edwards and Livesey will be vying for Gold.
Edwards will be looking to improve her World Ranking of 26 before the World Championships in August. The -52kg category will be a tough weight category in Russia with four of the world’s top ten entering the competition. World No.2 Gili Cohen (ISR) is top seeded with four top five placings in her last five competitions including silver in Antalya last month. Edwards has demonstrated that she can compete at this level following Gold in the European Open in Glasgow last year back up by several bronze medal wins in Grand Slam, Grand Prix and European Open competition. Edwards will take on Mongolian Gantsetseg Ganbold in the first round with Canadian World No.18 Ecaterina Guica lying await in the second round.
Amy Livesey will take part in the -63kg in what is proving to be a strong category for GB Judo including the likes of Lucy Renshall, Alice Schlesinger and Lubjana Piovesana. The St Helens judoka will be seeded (World ranked 28th) so will have high hopes of progressing to the final block later in the day. She is fresh off a 5th placed finish in Antalya in which she lost to compatriot Piovesana in the bronze medal contest. Livesey has received a bye in the first round and will join the competition in the last 16 against Cristina Cabana Perez (ESP).
Sunday sees the return to action for Natalie Powell, Max Stewart and Ben Fletcher following the European Championships.
Powell claimed a second consecutive bronze at the continental championships to maintain her World Ranking of 5th and maintain the pressure on the top four. She is seeded third in Russia with World No.1 Guusje Steenhuis (NED) the top seeded entrant. Steenhuis will be looking to continue an astonishing recording in which she has medalled in her last 10 events, winning gold in three of them. Powell, however, holds an impressive record in competitive judo placing in her last 15 events, including a 7th place finish in Rio. Powell has received a bye in the first round of the competition and with World No.19 Karen Stevenson (NED) a potential quarter final opponent.
World No.14 Max Stewart again finds himself as the top seed in the -90kg category. The 23 year old from Birmingham has secured some impressive results this season with 5th placed finishes in the Tbilisi Grand Prix and Paris Grand Slam to back up the Gold Medal he won in the Qingdao Grand Prix in November last year. Dutch judoka Noel Van T End who is ranked 21st in the world, goes in as second seed while World and European medallist Krisztian Toth of Hungary makes his first competitive appearance since the Rio Olympics. Former -81kg World Champion Loic Pietri (FRA) will also be in action at the higher weight category as an unseeded judoka. Stewart has received a bye in the first round with an unseeded potential lined up in the second round.
Ben Fletcher (-100kg) returns to the mat following the European Championships in which he was eliminated in the third round by Varlam Liparteliani (GEO). The Georgian is also entered for the weekend but Fletcher will need to find a way past a number of top five judoka with Michael Korrel (NED – World Ranked No.3) and Martin Pacek (SWE – World Ranked No.5) to be in with a hope of reaching the medal podium. Fletcher has also received a bye in the first round and will join the competition with an unseeded opponent in the second round.
Competition starts at 10:00am local time on Saturday/Sunday with live coverage via ippon.tv and you can find the full draw at ippon.org. Join the conversation on #JudoRussia2017 and follow @BritishJudo on Twitter for live results updates on the British judoka.
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