1ST PRESIDENT'S CUP
By: Bob Willingham
This is the amount of prize money that was divided between the successful
teams attending the first ever "Presidents Cup", held
on December 9th 2000 by the Russian Judo Federation in Magnitogorsk,
Siberia. A princely $100,000 for the winning team, $50,000 for the
Silver medallists, $25,000 for both the teams taking Bronze and
$12,500 for each of the four remaining teams.
teams came as a result of the invitation. Hungary, Belarus, Japan
and Uzbekistan were all fielding National teams and were joined
by three strong Club teams (boasting a mixture of international
players) from Liberty in Romania, Abensburg in Germany and Le Vallois
in France. Along with the "home" team of Yawara Neva these
giants of the judo world combined to provide riveting judo in a
first class event.The first rounds, semi finals and Bronze matches
were all fought-off on two mat areas during the first session of
the day, which lasted from 10.00am until about 1.00pm. But once
these were over a team of uniformly tracksuited helpers swarmed
into the arena and, at remarkable speed, efficiently rearranged
the mats to provide us with one central area for the finals.
An impressive opening ceremony began with excellent Judo demonstrations.
These alternated between classic judo, shown in dynamic and flowing
form by two young women, and more unorthodox judo from two young
men who launched themselves into a series of extraordinary pick-ups
with great athleticism. The crowd were clearly delighted as they
waited eagerly for the arrival of President Putin. The knowledge
that he would be coming to watch the finals had packed the huge
stadium with spectators. As anticipation grew a variety of beautifully
costumed dances were performed as a lively end to the opening ceremony.
A huge security screen had been set up in and around the stadium
which was as impressive as it was efficient, the outer perimeter
being manned by the armed forces and the arena floor by the archetypal
"plain clothes" under cover forces. As President Putin
finally appeared in the stadium he was met with a roar of approval
and much enthusiastic clapping and cheering. Wearing a simple grey
woollen jersey he seemed very relaxed, casually waving to the crowd
before sitting down at the head table with the Russian Judo Federation
President, Vladimir Shestakov, and Marius Vizer the EJU President.
The final match between Yawara Neva and Liberty started well for
the local crowd with their home team taking the first two contests.
But just to put a halt to the "white washes" handed out
earlier in the day against the Hungarian and Uzbekistan teams, Liberty
were able to pull back fights three and four. The first courtesy
of a huge pick-up from Vazagashvilli (-73kg) against Makerov and
the second thanks to Grecov (-81kg) producing a neat transfer from
a hold into San-gaku-gatame to gain a submission from Pipia.
The tension was at its peak when Taov RUS (-90kg) came out to face
Romanian hero Croitoru. President Putin's reaction said it all as
Russia took back the lead; he leapt into the air with both arms
above his head. Leader of the country he may be but it's good to
see he's still a judo-man at heart. The last two fights went to
plan for Russia, with the young heavyweight Mikhaylin rounding it
off by beating Liberty's massive 200kg Spaniard, Ruano.
the home team victorious, and an ecstatic crowd basking in the reflected
glory, President Putin then went walkabout in the stadium arena
greeting old friends and stopping to have pictures taken with various
invited VIP's. Some bold members of the audience began calling out
to him to go onto the mat and do some throws but this time he declined.
Vladimer Shestakov, Russian Judo President, said "I personally
wanted Russia to win of course, but especially because the President
was here and I knew he would enjoy it. His involvement in our sport
is a great help to us in a political sense. He helps to make judo
"big" in Russia because he does judo himself. Because
he is the President it raises the profile of the sport all around
the world, and this will encourage more people to join us."
Marius Vizer, EJU President said, "I think this gave us a good
preview of how well the Grand Prix will work. The organisation was
well up to European standards and the quality of the judo itself
was generally good. Looking to the future, for this tournament and
for other similar ones, we must produce a method of selection for
teams and establish a classification based, first and foremost,
on quality. We need teams that are strong and produce a consistently
high standard. I would also like to say that, although there have
been occasional difficulties at the organisational level, the organiser's
hospitality here has been very good. Marvellous! Also, the presence
of President Putin at these championships has been excellent for
Judo. It was a shame it couldn't take place in Moscow, however when
the Grand Prix takes place there, I am convinced it will be a great
success for Judo. I hope that, working as a team, we'll do a good
job launching the Grand Prix. The first two dates have already been
set - the end of September in Moscow and on to Seville for the end
The 2nd Presidents Cup is expected to be held later this year in
St Petersburg with the same or even more prize money!!