On the opening day of the Zagreb Grand Prix, Sam Hall marked his return to the IJF World Tour by winning gold.
Former European Junior Championship silver medallist Hall (-60kg) was competing for the first time on the international circuit since The Hague Grand Prix back in 2017.
He defeated Maximilian Heyder (GER) in the opening round before victory over Jolan Florimont (FRA) in Golden Score to book his place in the Semi-Finals, where he faced top seed Matan Kokolayev (ISR).
It took Hall just 60-seconds to book his place in the Final, turning his opponent with obi-tori-gaeshi and pinning him for ippon score.
Hall faced former European Junior Champion Angelo Pantano (ITA) in the final. Hall went a score down early on, but did not panic and trusted his groundwork that had worked so well throughout the earlier rounds to force his opponent to submit with a strangle.
Hall admitted it felt strange to be back after so long away: “There were a few occasions I felt frozen in the middle of the mat, so it helped having Dennis (Stewart) in my corner throughout the day. He definitely helped me get through the day and keep my head straight and on the plan.
“The competition was an opportunity to get back out and see where I am at compared to the rest of the word and it was a relief to be able to perform the way I did. I have had a lot of support from all the local clubs like Ryecroft and Wolverhampton, however I wouldn’t be here without Fitzroy Davies and Hardy Spicer 83. It really has been a team effort to get back here and I can’t wait for the next one!”
Acelya Toprak defeated Panamerican Junior Champion Mariah Holguin (USA) in the opening round. The American fighter picking up a third shido during Golden Score.
In the Quarter-Finals Toprak faced Priscilla Gneto (FRA). Toprak went a score down at the half-way mark of the contest before the French fighter picked up an elbow injury in the final minute. Toprak attacked her opponent, trying to find a score to level or win the contest, or force her opponent to pick up a third shido. However, the French fighter managed to survive the relentless Toprak attacks to progress to the Semi-Finals.
Entering the competition seeded 8th, Amy Platten (-48kg) defeated Ana Budescu (ROU) in Round 2, following an opening round bye. Two uchi-mata scores enough to see Platten through to the Quarter-Finals to face Melanie Vieu (FRA).
The match entered Golden Score with Vieu needed to attack as she had 2 shido’s to Platten’s one. A second shido for Platten levelled the score and as the contest passed the 7-minute mark Vieu booked her place in the Semi-Final with an osaekomi.
Platten was later defeated in the Repechage contest by Katarina Tanzer, again by osaekomi, meaning she finished 7th.
Alexander Short’s opening round contest, in the -66kg category, against 2020 European U23 Championship silver medallist Robert Klacar (CRO) was an open attacking match. Short conceded a score in the final 40 seconds to take the contest to Golden Score, but a second score for Short saw him through to Round 2.
In the second round Short was defeated by Bodgan Iadov (UKR). Two waza-ari scores for Iadov enough to see him through to the Quarter-Finals.
Josie Steele had a tough opening round contest against top seed and Tokyo Olympic Games 5th placed fighter Kaja Kajzer (SLO).
Despite dominating the majority of the contest, Steele was unable to register a score and as the contest entered Golden Score the experience of Kajzer saw her score with a seoi-nage to progress to the next round.
Gregg Varey (-66kg) was defeated in his opening round contest against Sarajevo European Open gold medallist Ivo Verhorstert (NED).
Action starts at 11:00am with Final Block scheduled to commence at 16:00.
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