After ten editions of the IJF World Tour in the capital of Azerbaijan Baku, the eleventh event will be a Grand Slam. The two IJF World Tour events were Grand Prix, in 2011 and 2012, just in advance of the London Olympic Games. Since 2013 Baku has the status of a Grand Slam. So far 20 azeri athletes achieved a gold medal at home in Baku, of which three women. The first winner was a woman: Kifayat Gasimova in 2011.
The U60kg weight class is a popular category with three victories for azeri athletes, in 2012 by Ilgar Mushkiyev, in 2014 by the strong athlete Orkhan Safarov at the age of 22. Last year by new generation Balabay Aghayev.
Legendary athletes say farewell
In 2012 Rustam Orujov was the youngest ever winner in Baku at the age of 20 he won his category U73kg. Not a surprise, this is the best category of Azerbaijan with three time winner and legend Orujov and two time winner Hidayat Heydarov who was on the highest podium in 2019 and 2022. He will defend his title as well this event. Rustam Orujov is by far the most successful athlete in the history of the Baku IJF Tour events with seven medals, including three titles, two Grand Slams and one Grand Prix. This year Rustam Orujov retired and this Grand Slam we will have a farewell ceremony for some of the top athletes in Azerbaijan judo who retired.
Orkhan Safarov who competed at two Olympic Games in two different weight classes, who claimed a world bronze medal in 2013 at the age of 21 and who was in the 2017 World Championships final. The European Champion of 2020 also announced his retirement and was one of the most famous lightweights in Azerbaijan Judo history. He won the Grand Slam in Baku twice.
Former number one of the world U90kg Mammadali Mehdiyev retired and will be honoured for his fantastic judo career. He competed at two Olympic Games, six World Championships and seven European Championships since 2014 and collected three European Championships medals. He won three Grand Slams and twelve Grand Slam medals, even this year in Tel Aviv and medalled four times in Baku.
Another frontrunner of Azerbaijan Judo is Elmar Gasimov who fought his last international World Tour event last year. He competed at two Olympic Games and reached the final of the Rio Olympics. He won World bronze in 2017 and competed ten times at the worlds. He fought at 13 consecutive European Championships and won three medals. He won the IJF Masters twice among 21 IJF World Tour medals. Let’s give these four fantastic athletes our respect.
This article was originally published on www.judoinside.com