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Sanne van Dijke fourth Dutch athlete to win Grand Slam Japan

Sanne van Dijke fourth Dutch athlete to win Grand Slam Japan

2 Dec 2023 11:35
IJF Media by Callum MacLennan and JudoInside
IJF Gabriela Sabau / International Judo Federation

The number 1 seed at U70kg for the Tokyo Grand Slam 2023 was the Netherlands’ Sanne Van Dijke, one of the most decorated athletes on the circuit and one who already has a Masters title and 2 grand slam silver medals to her name so far this year. She had no problem converting this ranking to another medal in Tokyo, as she blasted her way through to the final. She is the fourth Dutch judoka to win the Grand Slam in Japan and the new number one of the world U70kg.

The final was initially a left versus right stalemate, with each of them picking up two shidos early on. The fight then began to open up more but neither player was able to execute their preferred techniques. In the third minute of golden score Van Dijke took advantage of a weak uchi-mata attempt from Tanaka to pick her up and throw her backwards with ura-nage. After a refereeing review, waza-ari was awarded and with that a 4th grand slam gold for the Dutch judoka. Van Dijke further cemented her status as one of the category’s elites, while Tanaka can be pleased with a hard-earned silver medal.

Taimazova and Moscalu contested the first bronze medal match. The Romanian surprised her opponent in the first 30 seconds with a skilful o-soto-gari to ko-soto-gari combination which scored her a waza-ari and followed up with a tight okuri-eri-jime in a later exchange to score an ippon and a major upset. This is the 24-year-old’s first ever grand slam medal and provides an enormous boost to her chances of Olympic qualification. The second bronze medal went to Tsunoda Roustant, as her opponent, Utana Terada (JPN), was unable to compete due to injury. At just 21 years of age, this is already her 6th grand slam medal and she continues to improve her ranking and build momentum towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Van Dijke started her day in round 2 against the always-dangerous Gercsak (HUN), where she threw the Hungarian with a perfectly timed uchi-mata-sukashi to score ippon halfway through the contest. Next up in the quarter-final would be Serafima Moscalu (ROU), against whom she took even less time to earn the victory; a powerful tsuri-goshi after 90 seconds did the job for the Dutchwoman. 

A semi-final against rising star Ai Tsunoda Roustant (ESP) was more of a challenge on paper, but in practice, Van Dijke dispatched the young Spaniard with similar ease. A double tsuri-goshi attempt scored her ippon in the 2nd minute. With defending champion Saki Niizoe unable to participate due to injury, there was a chance for the other four Japanese entrants in the category to make their mark. Current Asian champion and double grand slam winner Shiho Tanaka took full advantage, coming through several gruelling contests to join Van Dijke in the final.

Tanaka progressed through round 1 after an early disqualification for her opponent, Gulnoza Matniyazova (UZB). Against recent first-time grand slam medallist Eriksson (SWE), the 25-year-old Japanese fighter ground out a waza-ari score using uchi-mata and held on to move through to the quarter-final against the experienced Kim Polling (NED). Tanaka struggled under pressure from Polling, picking up two penalties. A few minutes into golden score, however, Polling was disqualified for attempting to throw against the elbow. Awaiting Tanaka in the semi-final was the in-form Olympic bronze medallist Madina Taimazova (AIN). The two were evenly matched in normal time but in golden score, Taimazova came rushing forward and Tanaka countered with uchi-mata-sukashi from a remarkably low position to score waza-ari and guarantee herself a podium place.

Van Dijke is the fourth Dutch judoka to win the Grand Slam in Tokyo. Linda Bolder won gold, also U70kg in 2012, Marhinde Verkerk captured gold one year later in U78kg and heavyweight Henk Grol was the winner in Osaka in 2018. Mark Huizinga won the Jigoro Kano Cup in 1999 when there weren't yet Grand Slams. Van DIjke regained the number one position in the IJF World Ranking.

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