ABU DHABI // Competition was so close at the International Judo Federation Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi that none of the top seeds made it to the final of the top five weight divisions on Tuesday night.
The three-day tournament, a qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics, attracted top fighters from around the world to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and threw up surprise results in many of the categories.
"That's the beauty of this sport," said Henk Grol of the Netherlands, after winning the 100kg final from Ramadan Darwish of Egypt.
"If there is a difference between the contestants, it is only marginal. In Judo, anyone can win at this level. It was very tough all the way for me to the final and winning it tonight was good reward for all the hard work."
Grol, the world No 5 and the bottom seed in Abu Dhabi, extended his winning streak to four in as many competitions in 2011.
The 26 year old won the IJF Grand Slam Tournoi de Paris in February, the IJF GP of Baku in May and the Dutch Team Championship in the same month before arriving in the capital.
Grol was a bronze medallist at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, won the European gold in the same year and was the silver medallist in the World Championships in Tokyo last year.
"This competition is a good build-up for me for the London Games," said Grol, who took his record over Darwish to 3-0. "I definitely want to do better than the bronze medal I won in the last Olympics.
"The plan is to continue taking part in many IJF competitions as part of my preparation for next summer's Olympics."
Varlam Liparteliana, the world No 11 from Georgia, won the 90kg title, beating Sweden's Marcus Nyman, the world No 12, in the final.
"It was my first win in six attempts for 2011," Liparteliana said. "I am fighting for a place in the Georgia team for the 2012 Olympics and this win has given me some hope."
Kim Sung-Min, the world No 4 and the bottom seed from South Korea, took the over 100kg final when he stopped Luuk Verbij of the Netherlands in under two minutes of the scheduled five-minute contest.
In the two women's finals, Abigel Joo of Hungary beat Marhinde Verkverk of the Netherlands in the 78kg category and Elena Ivaschenko, the bottom seeded Russian, claimed gold from Ketty Mathe of France, in the over 78kg division.
It was Joo's second GP triumph of the year after her victory in Baku. She also avenged her defeat to Verkverk in the World Championships last year.
"I lost to her in the world championships, so it was good to get back and win the gold from her," said the 21-year-old world No 6. "She is a strong opponent and I managed only to win late in the contest."
The UAE's Muftah Al Zaabi followed in the footsteps of his compatriots, Khalifa Al Qubaisi and Humaid Al Derei, in making a first-round exit.
Al Zaabi lasted just over a minute and a half against Ryohei Anai, the unseeded Japanese, on Tuesday night.
Al Qubaisi was eliminated by Sezer Huysuz of Turkey in the 73kg division and Al Derei lost to Armen Nazaryan of Armenia in the 66kg category.