Promising performances from debutants on Day 1 of the Paris Grand Slam

Day one of the 42nd incarnation of the prestigious Tournai de Paris, saw promising performances from Nekoda Davis (-57kgs) and Paris Grand Slam debutants Amy Livesey (-63kgs) and Kelly Edwards (-52kgs). 

Amy Livesey, who had a bye in the first round, was up against Marielle Pruvost of France in the -63kgs in her first contest of the day. In front of a partisan crowd Amy produced a confident performance creating several opportunities to throw her French opponent. However, she progressed courtesy of a penalty score to set up a third round tie with world number 10 Junxia Yang of China who had earlier beaten Sweden’s Mia Hermansson.      

In tough encounter Yang looked dangerous on the floor as she used her strength to twist and turn Livesey to the ground. That pressure told as the Chinese judoka pinned Livesey for an Ippon. 

Kelly Edwards (-52kg) took her Paris Grand Slam bow against 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam gold medallist Annabelle Euranie of France in the first round. It was a tough first round draw for Edwards, who only returned from a long lay off at last month’s Havana Grand Prix. In a tight contest the world number 6 defeated the Telford judoka by a single penalty score.  

In the -57kgs category Nekoda Davis entered this year’s Paris Grand Slam looking to build on her debut performance at last year’s competition. The Ealing judoka started brightly throwing Zouleiha Abzetta Dabonne (CIV) for an Ippon within a minute to progress to set up a clash with Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia. Dorjsuren a silver medallist from Paris last year and the current world number one was a tough second round opponent for Davis. The Mongolian forced Davis to tap out for an Ippon mid-way through the contest to eliminate the Briton from the -57kg category. 

Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) was the first Briton in action at this year’s event, taking on Aaron Kunihiro of the U.S.A on mat 2. McKenzie scored a waza-ari against the American to set up a second round tie with Germany’s Tobias Englmaier who finished 5th at the Paris Grand Slam four years ago. In a finely poised contest with the German it was Englmaier who progressed on penalties at the expense of the Camberley judoka. 

Meanwhile in the -66kgs Colin Oates, who had a bye into the second round, met Akil Gjakova (KOS) in his first contest of the day. It was the first time Oates had faced the 20-year-old Kosovan who was on form having already knocked out Sugoi Uriarte (ESP) in the first round. Oates was defeated by Gjakova after he threw him for an Ippon in the final minute of the contest.   

“Paris is one of the toughest tournaments in the world and although there were no medals today there were some good fights by our players. Kelly lost to the world number 6 on a shido and put in a good performance. Nekoda was fighting well and won her first fight and then lost to the world number 1 by a strangle. That didn’t show the true account of the fight as the previous three minutes were evens. But one mistake cost her the fight and that is what she has learnt today. Amy won 1 and lost 1 in her first Grand Slam and gave a good account of herself at this level. This was all about experience for her”, said GB Elite Performance Coach Kate Howey. 

GB Elite Performance Coach Jean-Paul Bell added: “Paris is one of the most iconic events on the calendar and while there were no medals on day one. There are always positives that can be taken when you compete at this level of event. The athletes are focused and looking forward to the next event.” 

Owen Livesey (-81kgs), Ben Fletcher and Philip Awiti-Alcaraz (both -100kg) will make their Paris Grand Slam debuts tomorrow in the men’s as the action continues from the Bercy. In the women’s section Sally Conway (-70kg), Natalie Powell, Gemma Gibbons (both -78kg) and Sarah Adlington (+78kg) will also be on the mat on Sunday looking for valuable Olympic qualification points for Rio. 

Watch all the action live on from 09.00am GMT and follow @BritishJudo on Twitter from 8am for live updates on British competitors in the final block.