Dutch Team Dominates Baku Grand Slam
It was the turn of the heavyweights on the third and final day of the Baku Grand Slam.
Guusje Steenhuis of the Netherlands was the standout female athlete of the day. She started and ended the day with ippon-winning performances. The world number one upset the Azerbaijan crowd with a ten-second opening round victory over Gunel Hasanli. In the final she beat compatriot and former world champion Marhinde Verkerk.
After just under three minutes Steenhuis threw her teammate for a waza-ari and then held her down for the required 20 seconds to score judo’s equivalent of a knockout. It was her fifth career Grand Slam title.
Steenhuis said she is only targeting the main events this season in order to be in top form for the world championships in Budapest, where she is favourite for a maiden gold.
She said: “I plan to do all the Grand Slams this year and of course the European and world championships, just to get a good peak (of form) and not do everything and then get really tired, because I want to be at my best for the World Championships, of course.”
Guram Tushishvili had a breakthrough day in Baku. The 22-year old Junior European champion was in a league of his own on Sunday and emerged victorious from all four of his +100 kg division contests courtesy of an ippon. He set the tone for the day with a round one defeat of home hope Aykhan Jafarov.
The Georgian youngster then defeated top seed and double Olympic bronze medallist Rafael Silva before besting another of the host nation’s judokas in Ushangi Kokauri to reach the final.
The Showpiece fight was a high in quality and short in duration. Tushishvili dispatched the more experienced Barna Bor of Hungary by ippon just one minute into the final to celebrate his first career Grand Slam title.
After an impressive day on the tatamis, he said: “It’s the first medal for me at such a high-level tournament, at a Grand Slam. Of course I’m very happy and in the future I will try to get more medals in high level tournaments on the IJF tour.”
Also on the third and final day in Baku, Michael Korrel continued his fine form of late by winning the -100kg title. The Dutch Judoka, who won Bronze in Dusseldorf in February, beat Azerbaijan’s Elmar Gasimov in a lung-busting final that needed a golden score to seperate the pair.
An exhausted Gasimov blinked first and was penalized for passivity after four minutes of added time to leave Korrel with the gold.
The Dutch team was in a rich vein of form in Baku. Tessie Savelkouls joined in on the gold-medal winning celebrations for her country when she beat European champion Kayra Sayit by Ippon to claim the +78kg category title.
Savelkouls scored a waza-ari first before forcing her Turkish opponent to tap out.
It was the first major success of her career.
The Netherlands finished top of the medals table with three gold and one silver.