The 2019 Paris Grand Slam saw 570 judoka from 97 different countries competing at Bercy Arena between 9-10 February. For the first time, Jamaica joined the judo family at the highest level. Paris Grand Slam is not only one of the most prestigious IJF World Tour tournament but also one of the Olympic qualification events for Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.The Jamaica Judo Association entranced with two athletes, Devin Waldenburg (-60kg) and Ebony Drysdale-Daley (-70kg).
On day one, Waldenburg drew against World Masters and multiply Grand Slam medallist, Vincent LIMARE (FRA) in the first round of the -60kg category. The clear contest time went head to head with strong attacks from both judoka ending the four minutes with 2 to 1 on penalties in favour of the French fighter. Waldenburg continued to work on his strong left uchi-mata attempts, however, Limare’s experience and a few effective lower seoi-nage put the Jamaican judoka onto receiving his third and final penalty. This was the first time for Waldenburg to compete at the IJF World Tour stage. The 22-year-old judoka spoken positively of his first Olympic qualifier:
“I was a bit astonished when entering the Bercy Arena. So many big judo names have won medals here on the tatami. So, I couldn’t help it being impressed. Now I’m part of it and had to perform myself in this Arena. When I saw the result of the draw. I thought … oops … a French judoka as a first opponent … That’s gonna be a rough ride, but also … what an honour, because judo is such a big sport in France, with legends like Teddy Riner. I told myself, OK, this is going to be a tough fight, let’s make the best of it. So, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know how the crowd would respond to me as an opponent of a French judoka. But once on the tatami all those feelings evaporated, and I could focus again. I dug deep and tried to beat my opponent which unfortunately I did not succeed. Hence, I’m not satisfied with the outcome, but grateful for the massive experience. I will face him at the training camp again and work on my techniques.”
Day two saw Junior World silver medallist, Ebony Drysdale-Daley taking on the exact same challenge against European Champion and Abu Dhabi Grand Slam winner, Margaux PINOT (FRA). The first half of the contest showed positive feedbacks. Not until towards the end of third minutes when Pinot’s signature technique, lower seoi-nage, allowed the French judoka to progress to the second round and later onto the podium. Despite lack of medals for Jamaica, our athletes showed promising progress on their qualification route to Tokyo 2020. Both athletes will take part in a 4-days long international training camp.
The next tournament for our athletes will be Dusseldorf Grand Slam between 22-24 February 2019.
Photos: Rafal Burza