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Delpopolo Takes 5th at Baku Grand Slam
April 15, 2013
Baku, Azerbaijan Pan American Champion Nick Delpopolo traveled alone all the way to Azerbaijan to compete in the Baku Grand Slam where he was attempting to win his first Grand Slam medal but after a first round bye he went 2-2 to place 5th finishing just off the podium.
Delpopolo drew Vugar Bayramov (AZE) in the second round and had previously defeated Bayramov in the European Open of Hungary in a tough match that went into overtime. This match would prove similar for Delpopolo as he walked away with a tight 2 penalties to 1 victory putting him into the quarterfinal with Victor Scvortov who just switched Nationalities from Moldova to United Arab Emirates. Delpopolo attacked Scvortov from the start but received a questionable stalling penalty immediately after an osoto attack that knocked Scvortov to the ground. Nick spent the rest of the match chasing, and had several attacks that knocked his opponent down onto his stomach nearly avoiding a score but he was unable to force Scvortov into receiving a penalty to tie the match and lost 1-0.
Nick found himself in the repechage facing world tour veteran and Mongolian #2 Odbayar Ganbaatar to get into the bronze medal match. Nick received two penalties before throwing the Mongolian with a nice Sumi Gaeshi to put a yuko score on the board at the halfway point of the match. With a minute and 30 seconds remaining in the match Nick received a third penalty for poor posture meaning that for the rest of the match he could not receive another penalty or he would be disqualified. The next minute and a half seemed like it took an hour as Delpopolo battled to hold onto the lead and the bell finally rang signaling the end of the match and a place in the bronze medal final.
For the bronze medal Nick was matched up against hometown favorite Huseyn Rahimli (AZE). Nick started strongly throwing the Azerbaijani with Uchi-Mata for waza-ari (half point). A lengthy medical timeout called for blood on Rahimli's hand bandages seemed to freeze Nick and when the match re-started he was caught for a clean ippon with yoko sutemi waza to the delight of the Azerbaijan crowd and the dismay to Delpopolo. Nick was visably upset after the loss and took a few moments to get back up to his feet before shaking hands and walking off the mat.
Delpopolo had this to say of his 5th place finish at the Grand Slam "My losses really really hurt today. I'm almost in pain from being so upset, I can't explain it. The only thing I can say is you have 0 chance to win big medals if you don't fight the big ones and I am going to continue to fight in the toughest events until I am winning them. I fight a lot so I can learn a lot and although it hurts I made many mistakes today that I don't normally make and have learned a painful lesson. I'll keep testing myself all summer at the toughest events. Nothing more to say."
Nick picked up 100 World ranking points for his 5th place finish and locks up the #6 slot in the World leading into the World Masters which will be held in 3 weeks in Tyumen, Russia. The World Masters is an invite only "best of the best" tournament held for the top 16 players in the World with the top 8 receiving seeds. This will be Delpopolo's 3rd straight appearance at the World Masters and his first time being seeded.
Nick will remain in Azerbaijan this week for a tough two-a-day training camp before returning home to Miami where he has his second semester College finals awaiting him.