British judoka will be faced a world-class field as they take to the mat at the 2017 Paris Grand Slam at the AccorsHotel Arena on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 February.
Late withdrawals due to injury and illness have resulted in the original eight strong squad being reduced to five with Alice Schlesinger (-63kg), Jemima Yeats-Brown (-70kg) and Philip Awiti-Alcaraz (-100kg) all missing out.
However, the five British athletes competing this weekend will have a great opportunity to lay down a marker for the rest of the year and pick up vital world ranking points.
On Saturday Kelly Edwards (-52kg), Lucy Renshall (-63kg) and Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) will be in action with Renshall seeded eight at this weekend’s competition. This means a potential quarter-final match-up with Olympic champion Tina Trstenjak (SLO) but she will start her day against either Cloe Yvin (FRA) or Sarai Padilla Guerreo (ESP). Renshall made a good start to 2017 when she won silver at the Sofia European Open last week and is currently world ranked No.30.
Wrekin’ Star judoka Edwards enjoyed a successful end to 2016 as she medalled in six competitions in a row including bronze medals at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and Zagreb Grand Prix respectively. This meant the British fighter broke into the top 30 in the world and she will take on Larisa Florian (ROU) first up with the winner facing Astride Gneto (FRA) in the last 16.
Ashley McKenzie always brings a bit of excitement when he steps on the mat and the Camberley judoka makes his return to international competition for the first time since Rio last summer. The -60kg category is as strong as expected with the likes of Diyorbek Urozboev (UZB), Naohisa Takato (JPN) and Orkhan Safarov (AZE) entered.
McKenzie will take on French star Walide Khyar in his first contest and could take one of Bekir Ozlu (TUR), Ka Chun Lau (HKG) or Channyeong Kim (KOR) in the last 16.
Sunday will see another Rio Olympian make their international return while another British judoka have the chance to follow in some pretty big footsteps.
Natalie Powell (-78kg) won bronze at the Paris Grand Slam last year on her route to qualifying for the Olympic Games. This was also the first Grand Slam of Powell’s career to date. The Welsh judoka fought at the British Championships before the end of 2016 but Paris will be a considerable step up. Powell will be against Georgette Sagna of Senegal in the first round with home favourite Audrey Tcheumeo (FRA) a possible opponent in the semi-final.
Birmingham judoka Max Stewart (-90kg) made a successful step up from -81kg in 2016 and he will go in confident of putting in a good showing. His first contest will be against Yakhyo Imamov (UZB), a former Paris Grand Slam winner at -81kg. The 23 year old is in the same quarter as France’s Alex Clerget as well as Avtandili Tchrikishvili (GEO), the double world champion and 2016 Paris Grand Slam winner another judoka making the move up from -81kg.
Competition starts at 9.30am local time on both days with live coverage via ippon.tv and @BritishJudo on Twitter. All of British judoka on Day One will be fighting on Mat 3 while on Day Two Natalie Powell will be on Mat 4 and Max Stewart on Mat 3.
Don’t forget to tweet your support using the hashtag #WeAreGBJudo