Azerbaijan have a good chance of claiming a place at the top of the IBSA Judo Grand Prix medal table, says national women’s coach Ramin Ibrahimov.
Ibrahimov said he not underestimate the strength of the opposition, but with a week to go before the international competition, held for the first time in Baku, the women’s team were in top form.
“It makes us excited and proud that Paralympians from all over the world are coming to Azerbaijan,” said Ibrahimov. “It is a great honour for us and competing in our own country gives us more motivation to win.
“Many champions will be competing so it will be challenging. But we have prepared thoroughly and we have our own champions too. We aim to hear our national anthem played often.”
Ibrahimov picked out countries such as Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Turkey among the team they will have to beat to win medals. But he said that South Korea’s last-minute decision to pull out of the competition offered Azerbaijan an extra opportunity.
The Grand Prix, open only to athletes with sight impairments, is also a Paralympic licence event. A good performance in Baku will give competitors a chance to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“During our training, we have kept the Paralympics in mind. It is one of the reasons the Grand Prix is so important to us and why we will be pushing hard to win,” added Ibrahimov.
Over 240 athletes from 36 countries are expected to compete at the IBSA (International Blind Sports Association) Judo Grand Prix. The competition takes place on 13 and 14 May, at Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Sports Complex. Azerbaijan will be represented by 13 male and 10 female athletes. Entry to the Grand Prix is free.