Grand Prix, Tbilisi 2014
Last weekend the South Pacific island paradise of Samoa welcomed judoka from around the world to take part in the World Cup Olympic qualifier in its capital Apia.
It's still a flight of over five hours from Sydney to Apia but at least Ivo dos Santos (AUS) and several of his team mates have been able to make the most of having a world cup within reasonable striking distance. Dos Santos -66kg seeded No. 3 here, took the bronze medal and 40 points to lift him from 31st to 17th in the IJF WRL losing only to Sasha Mehmedovic (CAN) whose silver medal win (60pts) moves him ahead of his Canadian rival Michal Popiel.
The US duo of Nick Delpopolo and Michael Eldred are likely to consider there visit to Samoa a missed opportunity as neither of them was able to take gold despite the fact that they were seeded one and two respectively in the -73kg. They were both defeated by the unfancied Martin Nietlispach (SUI), ranked a lowly 124, who upset the form book in winning his first ever world cup.
Mark Anthony -90kg (AUS) retained his title and further improved his chances of qualifying for London 2012 whilst Daniel Kelly -100kg (AUS) moved closer to a qualification spot with a gold medal winning performance beating his continental union rival Jason Koster (NZL) in the final. Also making good ground was young Victorian Jake Andrewartha +100kg (AUS) who if he keeps up this form could be London bound. Carli Renzi (AUS) did exactly what she needed to do in order to stay ahead of the chasing pack in the -57kg. Her gold medal win justified her being seeded No. 1 and puts her 20th on the WRL.
Kathleen Sell's -70kg (USA) win over team mate Samantha Bleier puts even more distance between the US pair and should encourage her toward her goal. Janelle Shepherd +78 (AUS) needs no encouragement. Self confident (and with good reason) what Shepherd needs is plentiful competition for which she is going to have to travel further afield. The action moves this weekend to Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix where the competition will surely be stronger and hopefully, for Shepherd, in greater numbers.