The 30th edition of the World Championships, the marquee event of the IJF World Judo Tour, is set to be the epicentre of the sporting world for the next week in Chelyabinsk, Russia from Monday 25 – Sunday 31 August.
The city, which has a proud judo tradition, is awash with judo as the event has already become the talk of the city with unprecedented advertising, coverage and branding across the city.
Over the next week the world will be watching as this year’s showpiece event is the first World Championships in this Olympic cycle to carry qualification points towards the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The Traktor Sport Arena is a breathtaking sight and perfect setting for the world’s finest judoka to produce magical sporting moments which will be watched by a sold out crowd on all seven days of the event.
Over 800 volunteers will support the competition which has attracted over 300 members of the media from around the world as judo shows why it is one of the worlds most widely practiced sports.
The World Judo Championships, Chelyabinsk 2014, has attracted 639 judoka from 110 nations.
IJF and SportAccord President Mr. Marius VIZER made the opening address
Hosts Russia have included a full team of 18 judoka including two judoka from the Chelyabinsk region, Kirill DENISOV and Renat SAIDOV.
The competition will conclude with the team event on Sunday 31 August which recently earned widespread praise at the Youth Olympic Games, Nanjing 2014. Teams of five judoka will compete with eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams with the draw taking place on Saturday afternoon.
The draw and press conference took place on Friday afternoon at Radisson Blu hotel as the delegations and athletes discovered who stands between them and world success.
The Russian Judo Federation delegates at the official draw
After a presentation of successful judoka from the Chelyabinsk region: Valeriy DVOINICKOV, Grigoriy VERICHEV, Juriy STYOPKIN, Vitaly MAKAROV and Mansur ISAEV, the floor was given to the delegates from the International Judo Federation and Russian Judo Federation.
Mr. Marius VIZER, IJF and SportAccord President, praised the early organisation and talked about the sport being a powertol tool to deliver solidarity, unity and respect.
“Dear official guests, judoka, media and sponsors, on behalf of the IJF, I welcome you all to Chelyabinsk, Russia,” said Mr. VIZER.
“I want to congratulate the organisers for the level of organisation and I wish all of you a successful World Championships. The event will deliver very high level solidarity, unit and respect for Russia which continues to be a leader in judo. I consider today in a difficult period of the Russian federation, the sport and the judo, is an important bridge to bring Russia back to the community. I thank you for all your efforts to come over here to show solidarity to Russia.”
Mr. Dimitriy CHERNYKH, RJF Vice President, said: “Dear friends it a great honour to welcome you all and such a big judo family in Chelyabinsk.
“In the name of Russian Judo Federation President and of Governor of the Region, I welcome you and wish you good luck in Chelyabinsk.”
The official draw and opening press conference for the World Judo Championships 2014
Five of the highest-profile athletes in judo attended the press conference to share their thoughts on the draw, the competition and to answer questions from the assembled media.
World champion Loic PIETRI (FRA) said: “I am not really worried by the draw, I am focusing on my judo and I am ready and confident.”
Former world bronze medallist Natalia KUZIUTINA (RUS) said: “The championship in my home country is a great opportunity. I will try to make my public happy and to get a medal.”
World champion ONO Shohei (JPN) was asked about his approach to fighting international judoka as opposed to Japanese fighters. The response from the highly-confident ONO, 22, was emphatic as he said: “It doesn’t make any difference to me.”
Olympic and world bronze medallist Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) said: “My preparation was very nice, I feel strong. I feel good. I did only one competition this year (Tyumen Grand Slam) and I got gold. I think that I am well prepared.”
Olympic champion Mansur ISAEV shared some insight into the Russian camp as he said: “The team is feeling good and they are all ready to fight. I hope that in my weight category the best judo player still needs to be determined when I return to action.”
From L-R: Mansur ISAEV (RUS), Mayra AGUIAR (BRA), ONO Shohei (JPN), Loic PIETRI (FRA), Natalia KUZIUTINA (RUS)
FOLLOW THE COMPETITION
The draw can be seen at: http://www.ippon.org/wc_sen2014.php
Live stream on Ippon TV: http://www.ippon.tv
Official event hash tag: #worldjudo2014
Live stream on Ippon TV: http://www.ippon.tv
Official event hash tag: #worldjudo2014
Olympic champion Sarah MENEZES (BRA) was upstaged in her homeland last year as MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg (MGL) was crowned Mongolia’s first female world champion in Rio de Janeiro. MENEZES, who had to settle for bronze last year, has already topped the podium in Russia this year after winning gold in July at the Tyumen Grand Slam while MUNKHBAT won the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix a week earlier. Maria Celia LABORDE (CUB) won her home event, the first Havana Grand Prix in June, while Olympic bronze medallist and European champion Eva CSERNOVICZKI (HUN) achieved a similar feat by winning the inaugural Budapest Grand Prix a fortnight later.
World champion Majlinda KELMENDI (IJF) has been untouchable since winning her first world title and earning hero status after clinching gold in 2013. KELMENDI, 23, has won the Paris Grand Slam, Samsun Grand Prix, European Championships and Budapest Grand Prix so far this year and could be jumping for joy again on the world stage in Chelyabinsk.
World silver medallist Erika MIRANDA (BRA) will still be regarded as the leading challenger for KELMENDI and has been in good form this year. The Brazilian took bronze at the Dusseldorf Grand Prix, silver at the Havana Grand Prix and bronze in the last IJF event, the first edition of the Tyumen Grand Slam. Dusseldorf Grand Prix silver medallist HASHIMOTO Yuki (JPN) and Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix runner-up Mareen KRAEH (GER), who both won world bronze last year, will expect to mount another title challenge.
Olympic champion MATSUMOTO Kaori (JPN) competes in her first World Championships since her London 2012 victory. MATSUMOTO, 26, who is undefeated in international competition since the 2011 World Championships, returned to the IJF World Judo Tour this year after taking a post-London break and settled back into action with wins at the Dusseldorf Grand Prix and Budapest Grand Prix.
The images of Rafaela SILVA (BRA) emotionally falling to her knees after becoming the first Brazilian woman to win world judo gold were as powerful as they were indicative of countries breaking new ground as the 14 gold medals were shared by 10 countries. MATSUMOTO and SILVA have clashed on four occasions and the Japanese star leads their head-to-head serious with three victories.
World number one Miryam ROPER (GER) delivered a career-best world bronze medal last year and the 32-year-old will summon every ounce of energy in her body to repeat that achievement while reigning silver medallist Marti MALLOY (USA) comes into the competition on the back of winning the Miami Pan American Open.
World champion Yarden GERBI (ISR), the first Israeli judoka to win world gold, has stuttered on the World Judo Tour in recent months and has to go back 12 months to Rio for her last win on the IJF circuit. The 25-year-old finished fifth at the Grand Prix events in Samsun and Havana and lost her first contest at the Tyumen Grand Slam in July. In contrast to the frustrations of GERBI, her 2013 world final victim Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) has been clinical this year with victories at the Paris Grand Slam, European Championships and Havana Grand Prix. AGBEGNENOU, 21, has been one of the breakout stars in judo over the last couple of years and will see a gold medal in Russia as the next step in her career as she aims for her first Olympic Games in 2016.
Former Junior World champion TASHIRO Miku (JPN) will be one to watch for Japan on her senior World Championships debut as the 20-year-old took bronze at the Paris Grand Slam in February and gold at the Budapest Grand Prix in June. World bronze medallist Anicka VAN EMDEN (NED) has made a habit of winning the same colour medal since Rio as she’s shared the final spot of the medal podium at Grand Prix events in Abu Dhabi, Dusseldorf and Budapest along with Grand Slams in Baku and Paris and the European Championships.
World champion and Olympic bronze medallist Yuri ALVEAR (COL) is in the prime of her career as she targets her third world crown. ALVEAR, 28, was unbeatable in 2009 and 2013 and is more than capable of successfully defending her title which is a real rarity at the IJF’s marquee event. Kim POLLING (NED) has done everything in her power to improve on her 2013 world bronze medal as she’s been highly-active on the World Judo Tour and has been at the top of her game with the European title and Grand Slam wins in Baku and Tyumen to show for her endeavours.
Laura VARGAS-KOCH (GER) has finished second at both the European Championships and World Championships in the last year and the 24-year-old could be a major factor this year while Commonwealth Games silver medallist Sally CONWAY (GBR) should mount the best challenge of her career on the world stage.
World champion SOL Kyong (PRK) was arguably the surprise package of the World Championships 2013 as the unfancied North Korean judoka emerged to win her country’s only medal. SOL, 24, was best known for an Asian Championships silver medal before being a revelation in Rio and returned to international duty by winning the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix in July.
Olympic champion Kayla HARRISON (USA) made her timely return from injury in June as she won the Havana Grand Prix, the first IJF competition to carry points towards Rio 2016 qualification. HARRISON, 24, took silver at the Tyumen Grand Slam recently as she was unable to compete in the final due to a neck strain.
World bronze medallist Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) has also successfully come back from injury as the Brazilian won gold in Tyumen in her first event since the World Championships 2013 while fellow Olympic bronze medallist Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) knows what it takes to win a world crown after her 2011 triumph.
Olympic champion and world champion Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) has not lived up to her billing this year as she has been defeated with alarming ease by a variety of opponents. ORTIZ, 24, is one of only two judoka to follow up on Olympic gold by winning world gold alongside Teddy RINER (FRA). However, ORTIZ lacks the aura of her heavyweight counterpart and will hold no fear for any of her potential opponents on the last day of the individual competition.
World silver medallist Maria Suelen ALTHEMAN (BRA) would relish a rematch with ORTIZ while they will both be aware of the double threat from Japan, who, still smarting from failing to win a women’s title last year, have selected three-time world bronze medallist TACHIMOTO Megumi (JPN) and Tyumen Grand Slam winner YAMABE Kanae (JPN) who enters her first World Championships with an undefeated record in 2014.
A year ago world champion TAKATO Naohisa (JPN) ended his country’s 16-year wait for a lightweight men’s world title at his first attempt. Now the 21-year-old, who is unbeaten in international competition since 2012, will complete another first in his career as he is tasked with defending a world title only two years out from surely making his presence known at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Olympic champion Arsen GALSTYAN (RUS) is left out by the hosts after struggling to return to form post-London with European champion Beslan MUDRANOV (RUS) receiving the nod from Team Manager Ezio GAMBA.
Havana Grand Prix winner Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO) finished fifth last year alongside GANBAT Boldbaatar (MGL) and both will be feature on the opening day along with Olympic bronze medallist Felipe KITADAI (BRA) and 2013 runner-up DASHDAVAA Amartuvshin (MGL).
Olympic bronze medallist EBINUMA Masashi (JPN) went through the pain barrier to win his second world title in Rio last year. EBINUMA, 24, grimaced with pain in the final as he withstood repeated arm locks before finding a way to win his second successive world crown. EBINUMA has company this time around from 21-year-old World Championships debutant TAKAICHI Kengo (JPN) who merited his selection by winning the All Japan Championships and the Budapest Grand Prix in recent months.
World number one Charles CHIBANA (BRA) won the Tyumen Grand Slam five weeks ago and returns to Russia with a very strong case of improving on his fifth-place finish from 2013. Four-time world medallist Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR) leads the charge for a 17-strong Ukrainian team.
World champion ONO Shohei (JPN) matched the efforts of teammates TAKATO and EBINUMA to win gold which steered Japan to the top of the medal table. ONO, 22, won the All Japan Championships in April by defeating Olympic silver medallist NAKAYA Riki (JPN) and both judoka will be among the favourites in Chelyabinsk.
Chelyabinsk’s own Olympic champion Mansur ISAEV (RUS) misses out through a knee injury as 2011 world bronze medallist Musa MOGUSHKOV (RUS) will aim to produce something special to please the Russian supporters.
World number one Rok DRAKSIC (SLO) finished seventh last year in Brazil and will be determined to do his talents justice this time around. Baku Grand Slam winner Sagi MUKI (ISR) has made waves in 2014 and could be a major factor in the medal picture if he can bring his explosive judo to the world stage.
World champion Loic PIETRI (FRA) was a prospect no more in Rio last year as the former Junior World champion and Junior European champion truly arrived on the world stage. PIETRI, who turns 24 on Wednesday, defeated his long-term rival Avtandil TCHRIKISHVILI (GEO) with his reverse seoi-nage a year ago and the former junior rivals have already met in the European Championships final this year where the Georgian reigned.
Victor PENALBER (BRA) returned to the top of the podium at the Tyumen Grand Slam and will see Chelyabinsk as the stage to along with European Championships bronze medallist Sven MARESCH (GER) and Dusseldorf Grand Prix winner Travis STEVENS (USA).
Olympic silver medallist Asley GONZALEZ (CUB) won his first world title a year ago as the Cuban defeated two-time European champion Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO). GONZALEZ is unable to defend his crown as he is recovering from shoulder surgery.
Georgian ace LIPARTELIANI has never ruled the world on the tatami but he was closer than ever last year and has been at the top of his game in recent months with Havana Grand Prix gold and European Championships gold showing he is on track for a major world challenge.
Three-time world medallist Kirill DENISOV (RUS) is still searching for his first world crown and will have the best chance of his career on home soil. Two-time world champion Ilias ILIADIS (GRE) is the man for the big occasion and has a skillset which can electrify audiences the world around.
Olympic champion Tagir KHAIBULAEV (RUS) is the only survivor from Russia’s all-male trio of London 2012 Olympic champions. KHAIBULAEV, who won world gold in 2011, starred at the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix in July on his return to the IJF circuit and will be a crowd favourite in Chelyabinsk.
European champion Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) is the world number one and at 23 has the -100kg category and the judo world in his hands. The hugely talented Czech judoka won the Tokyo Grand Slam in December and despite only taking bronze at the Worlds last year will be the judoka to beat on Saturday.
World champion and veteran Elkhan MAMMADOV (AZE) produced the performance of his career to win his first major title last year and will be challenged by athletes from all four corners of the world as rising continental stars such as European bronze medallist Cyrille MARET (FRA) all chase down the reigning champion.
Olympic and world champion Teddy RINER (FRA) is aiming to win his seventh senior world title at the age of 25. The world sport idol is undefeated since 2010 and the last man to beat him, KAMIKAWA Daiki (JPN), is part of the Japanese team who also call on Paris Grand Slam winner SHICHINOHE (JPN).
World number four RINER, whose four-year unbeaten streak consists of 62 fights, has only competed once this year as he won his fourth senior European title in April and has been spending extra hours training to ensure he is at full strength for the biggest event of the year. Olympic bronze medallist Rafael SILVA (BRA) fell, like many judoka before him, to RINER in the final last year. There is no judoka who has laid down a marker against RINER who is already an all-time great and destined to be the most successful heavyweight of all time. It may seem unthinkable now but this is what sport and judo in particular is all about - a plucky underdog who emerges to shock the most accomplished of opponents or a great champion has a momentary lapse in concentration. Everything can change in a heartbeat on the tatami and win or lose the outcome of the Frenchman’s day in Russia will be a monumental moment in the sport.