By: D. Espinosa

It would seem the Cuban organizers of the Grand Prix of Judo already have a black belt in planning this type of events, for the International Judo Federation (IJF) decided to select Havana again to be the venue of the 2016 edition.

In 2014 the island welcomed the competition and will do it again this year, after being selected over other cities that have organized it other times. Top world figures of judo will get together at the Coliseum of Ciudad Deportiva during January 22, 23 and 24.

Austrian Marius Vizer, president of the international organization, told the media that Cuba “makes great efforts despite economic difficulties, and resorts to its fighting will to move on.” This is an endeavor the IJF will collaborate with, by investing half a million dollars here. This time, the public will be able to attend combats that will bring face to face more than 420 athletes from 69 countries, including 56 Cubans.

Fans will be able to see, just a few meters away from the tatami, the cream of world judo: the Argentinian Paula Pareto (48 kg), world champion; Brazilian Sarah Menezes (48 kg); American Kayla Harrison (78 kg); and Cuban Idalis Ortiz (more than 78 kg) –these last three were the Olympic champions of London 2012. Plus, Azeris Rustam Orujov (73 kg) and Elma Gasimov (100 kg), the first men in the world ranking, will be here too.

According by Rafael Manso –President of the Cuban Federation– the island will be represented by its main athletes in all 14 divisions, as well as by talents from youth categories, who will have to face Olympic and world leaders. Together with Idalis Ortiz, athletes Dayaris Mestre (48 kg), Grettel Romero (52 kg), Aliuska Ojeda (57 kg), Maricet Espinosa (63 kg), Onix Cortés (70 kg) and Yalennis Castillo (78 kg) will compete too.

The Cuban male team will be integrated by Magdiel Estrada (73 kg), Pan-American champion and silver in the Grand Prix of 2014; Yandri Torres (60 kg); Carlos Tondique (66 kg); Iván Silva (81 kg); José Armenteros (100 kg) and Alex García (more than 100 kg), among others.

The event’s program starts with combats in the categories of 48, 52 and 57 kilograms (f), and 60 and 66 kg (m). Athletes in 63 and 70 (f), and 73, 81 and 90 (m) will fight on Saturday. Combats in 78 and more than 78 kg (f), and 100 and more than 100 kg (m) will take place during the last day of the tournament.

The program of this edition will also be attractive because of the lectures to be given to coaches, the preparation seminar for representatives of the attending federations, and the production of a documentary of the event that will promote Cuban touristic and cultural values.

The winners of the tournament will be given 300 crucial points for the world ranking, very important for the Olympic Games of August in Río de Janeiro, Brazil. Sub champions will be given 180, and bronze medalists will receive 90.

Judokas that don’t reach enough points in this edition will have another chance in the Pan-American championship, to take place in Cuba from April 28 to 30, 2016. That tournament will give its winners 100 points more.

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