Sunday, August 20, 2017

Wang Ki-Chun, peaked too early?

The middleweight division is a special one for South Korea for they've had many champions there.

Ahn Byeong-keun became a national hero when he won the -71kg division at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where he overcome Japan's powerhouse, Hidetoshi Nakanishi, in the quarter-final and defeated Italy's Ezio Gamba in the final. He consolidated his legendary status when he won the World Championships on homeground in 1985. In that competition, he defeated the stylish Japanese fighter, Takahiro Nishida, in the quarter-final and Mike Swain of the USA in the final.

The next great middleweight champion from South Korea was Lee Won-hee, who won the gold medal in the 2003 Jeju Asian Judo Championships, 2003 Osaka World Championships, 2004 Athens Olympics and 2006 Doha Asian Games.

Lee was just in his mid-20s and still peaking when his career was cut short by Wang Ki-Chun, who defeated him in the national trials for both the 2007 Rio World Championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Another rising star in that category was Kim Jae-Bum. However, he was also beaten by Wang and he decided to move up to the -81kg division (with great success). Lee, however, decided to retire.



Wang would go on to win the 2007 and 2009 World Championships. (He got silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he had a rib cage fracture in the earlier rounds).

Technically, he was not a big thrower although he was capable of doing many types of throws including ippon-seoi-nage, morote-seoi-nage, reverses seoi-nage, tai-otoshi, kouchi-makikomi, ouchi-gari, uchimata, sode-tsurikomi-goshi and yoko-tomoe-nage. He was very tactical as well and could pull victory from the jaws of defeat in the dying seconds of matches. He was not the most brilliant technician but he was a superbly effective fighter.

The world, it seems, was his oyster. A double World Champion at 21, he had the potential to collect many more World titles to come, especially since the World Championships had change format to a yearly event after 2009. But this was not to be.

Wang lost to the Japanese seoi-nage specialist Hiroyuki Akimoto in the 2010 Tokyo World Championships (and lost to him again at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games).

For the next two years though, from 2011 through 2012, Wang seemed to have regained his stride and was unbeaten in the IJF World Circuit. He was the most consistent fighter in his category. Yet, he would stumble at major world events.


At the 2011 Paris World Championships, he was stunningly thrown for ippon by home favorite Ugo Legrand. He also performed poorly at the 2012 London Olympics, where he lost to Mansur Isaev of Russia. someone he had beaten six times in the past. He also lost for the bronze medal against Legrand, who again threw him for ippon.

After he lost to Japan's Shohei Ono in the first round of the 2013 Rio World Championships, Wang decided to move up a weight to -81kg and challenge his old rival Kim, who was by then Olympic and double World Champion, for a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics team. As it turned out, neither Wang nor Kim was chosen and Lee Seung-su was sent to Rio instead.

Wang retired after he failed to make the selection for Rio and is now focusing on coaching. It'd be easy to say Wang peaked early but it wasn't like he wasn't winning IJF tournaments after his second World title in 2009. As mentioned earlier, for period of two years (2011 and 2012) Wang was unbeaten in the IJF World Tour and was regularly ranked No. 1. But for some reason, he couldn't live up to expectations in the 2010, 2011, 2013 World Championships and 2012 Olympics – the years when he was at the top of his game.

It just goes to show how unpredictable and how tough judo competition can be. You can defeat all-comers at major IJF events but the World's and Olympics are a different kettle of fish. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Will Krpalek be able to fight -- and win -- at the World's?

An athlete's nightmare is getting injured right before a competition or worse still, during the competition. But judo players are tough and many top players have gone on to win medals despite their injuries.

Krpalek suffers a leg injury weeks before the World's.
The latest top player to have this happen to him is -100kg Olympic Champion Lukas Krpalek who has since moved up a weight class to +100kg. He recently injured his left leg during training and it's not clear whether he will be able to compete in the upcoming 2017 Budapest World Championships.

Ebinuma gets sweet revenge.
In recent years, there have been two cases where a player got injured during their medal match but continued fighting and actually won. In 2013, Japan's Masashi Ebinuma faced Kazakhstan's Azamat Mukanov in the final of the -66kg weight class.

Mukanov attacked Ebinuma with an illegal waki-gatame several times and never got called for it. Then he launched a particularly vicious attack that took Ebinuma to the ground.

It was clear to commentators and observers alike that that was an illegal waki-gatame but for some reason the referee didn't see it as such and neither did the video judges.

So they let it go on. Ebinuma, who was clearly in pain, refused to tap out and survived long enough for the referee to call matte.

Frank Sinatra once said the best revenge is massive success and Ebinuma sure lived by that motto. Despite his arm being badly mangled, he took hold of Mukanov and launched into a driving ouchi-gari that scored a resounding ippon. It was one of the most heroic acts in judo competition.

Nikiforov does the impossible and scores waza-ari and then ippon despite not being able to grip properly.
Arguably even more heroic was Toma Nikiforov, whose hand got injured during an early exchange in the bronze medal match of the 2015 Astana World Championships. Unable to properly take a grip, he was penalized to three shidos and was in danger of getting hansoku-make when in the last minute, his opponent, Cyrille Maret of France, launched a poor forward attack at the edge of the mat that was countered for waza-ari. Suddenly Nikiforov was ahead.

Not content to coast but unable to grip properly, Nikiforov went for broke and completely wrapped himself around Maret with a soto-makikomi and took him down for ippon. It was an incredible display of true grit.

Koga wins despite knee injury.
In Ebinuma and Nikiforov's cases, the injuries were to the arm and hand respectively. To look at a famous leg injury we have to go all the way back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where Japanese legend Toshihiko Koga was expected to win an Olympic gold.

He had mesmerized the world with his brilliant performance in at the Barcelona World Championships the year before and it looked like nothing could stop him from winning an Olympic gold. But tragedy nearly struck.

Days before his event, he seriously injured his knee while sparring with teammate Hidehiko Yoshida. his injury was so bad, it wasn't certain that he could compete but in the end, compete he did.

His doctors shot him up with painkillers and he proceeded to win the gold. Throughout it all, he didn't seem to wince. Probably the painkillers did its job. But it was reported that right after the competition he was flown back to Japan for an emergency operation. He would miss the 1993 Hamilton World Championships but returned and won gold at the 1995 at the Tokyo World Championships.

Briggs wins yet another world title despite a dislocated shoulder.
Britain's Karen Briggs is one tough cookie and when she fractured her leg in two places going for her fourth world title in at the 1987 Essen World Championships, she actually wanted to carry on fighting. Of course, this wasn't possible. She did however, managed to regain her title at the 1989 Belgrade World Championships despite suffering a dislocated shoulder doing it.

Yamashita fulfills his destiny.
One of the most famous judokas in the world is Japan's Yasuhiro Yamashita who went into the 1984 LA Olympic Games with an unbeaten competition record.

Although some of today's players might not be as familiar with his fearsome reputation, he was the Teddy Riner of his time. He neither had the height or weight of Riner but he was just as devastating with her uchimata, ouchi-gari and osoto-gari. And he was very effective with strangle and hold-downs as well.

The LA Olympics was to be his last hurrah as he had planned to retire from international competition after the Games. He had missed the 1980 Moscow Olympics due to the US-led boycott. A gold medal in Los Angeles would be a perfect way to cap a remarkable career. But it nearly didn't happen.

In the preliminary rounds, he injured his leg. His injury got progressively worse as the day dragged on and he was seen clearly limping going into the final against the Egyptian player Mohammed Rashwan. By that point it was doubtful whether Yamashita could have attacked effectively with his leg so badly injured but it didn't matter because Rashwan attacked first. Yamashita quickly countered and took him to the ground where he clamped on a pin for ippon.

Will Krpalek be able to join the ranks of these heroic players and win despite injury? We shall see...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How do you beat Ono?


If you saw Ono in the 2015 Astana World Championships or the 2016 Rio Olympics, he looked pretty damned invincible! So, how do you beat him? Ask these fellas. They've all done it:

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam

Ono (JPN) vs Akimoto (JPN): 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam



Ono had a pretty bad year in 2014. Not only did he lose out in the 2014 World Championships individual event but he lost in the team event too. Then at the end of the year, in the Tokyo Grand Slam, he lost out to compatriot Hiroyuki Akimoto.

Akimoto is no mug, mind you. He's a former World Champion himself. But it's also true that at that point in his career, Akimoto was already past his prime while Ono could be said to be still peaking. Here, experience won out and Akimoto prevailed.

It must be said Akimoto did all the attacking, attempting seoi-nage after seoi-nage until finally one succeeded. It was given only a yuko but that was enough to win him the match. Ono was devastated but of course he would more than redeem himself in 2015 and 2016.

Today he is a double World Champion and Olympic Champion. Sadly, he won't be at the 2017 Budapest World Championships. Hopefully we'll see him at next year's World Championships... perhaps in a different weight class?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ono (JPN) vs Iartcev (RUS): 2014 Chelyabinsk World Team Championships

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam

(Video courtesy of www.ijf.org)
2014 was a bad year for then-defending World Champion Shohei Ono. Not only did he fail to defend his title in the individual competition, Ono also lost in the team championships to Russia's Denis Iartcev. And it wasn't just a fluke win nor was the match decided on penalties.

Ono scored first but Iartcev attacked him mercilessly, first scoring with a counter attack before launching a solid osoto-gari that won him the match. It's safe to say that Ono was soundly beaten here.

Ono (JPN) vs Lee (KOR): 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam


What a spectacular win it was for South Korea's Lee Young-Jun, sweeping World Champion Ono with okuri-ashi-barai for ippon. And with that, the Japanese champion was out of the competition.

Lee's okuri-ashi-barai was actually part of a "twitch" attack where he pretended to attack to the front and when Ono reacted by pulling backwards, Lee did the sweep which absolutely levelled Ono.

Khashbaatar (MGL) vs Ono (JPN): 2013 Paris Grand Slam

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam


It's a fierce battle back and forth between Mongolia's former World Champion Khashbaatar and not yet (then) World Champion Shohei Ono at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam.

Ono actually launches his Mongolian opponent into the air twice but failed to land him on his back or his side. In the end it was Khashbaatar who got the winning throw and it was an uchimata, no less. What a spectacular win.

Ono would go on to the 2013 Rio World Championships six months later.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wang (KOR) vs Ono (JPN): 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships



South Korea's double World Champion Wang Ki-Chun once beat Ono in the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships where he pinned the Japanese for ippon. It actually started out with Ono attacking in groundwork but his tactics went horribly wrong and Wang was able to capitalize on that to pin Ono for the full score.

When is the one-handed sode illegal (hansoku-make)?

My friend and partner-in-crime JudoHeroes pointed me to an interesting video someone posted (see below) which highlights a one-handed sode attack which presumably got hansoku-make. It goes on to ask why one-handed sodes by the likes of Soichi Hashimoto (JPN) are not illegal but in fact are given scores (sometimes ippon).

The answer, it seems, is that if uke gets injured, it's hansoku-make; and if uke is not, it's a legitimate attack. While some might argue that that's a stupid way to decide whether a technique is legal or not, it's certainly not arbitrary. In fact, it's very logical. If you do the attack in such a way that it straightens uke's arm and injures him, it's considered an armlock done in conjunction with a throw, which is illegal as in the case of waki-gatame done with a throw. If you enter into the one-handed sode without straightening uke's arm, like how Hashimoto usually does it, it's fine.

It's true that sometime even when you don't meant to straighten uke's arm, it just happens in the course of the attack because of how uke reacts. Tough luck then. Top players like Telma Monteiro (POR) and Avtandili Tchrikishvili (GEO) have been given hansoku-make for that very reason even though they very clearly were not trying to straighten their respective opponent's arm.

I guess that's the hazard of doing the one-handed sode. If uke's arm gets straighten either by your doing or uke's own fault, you still get the hansoku-make. You might not like this rule but what would be worse is if the one-handed sode is banned all together.

It's worth noting that Hashimoto has at least once been given hansoku-make for straightening the arm during a one-handed sode attack but since then he has managed to perfect his entry so that it doesn't hurt his opponent's arm. If you want to do one-handed sode, it's a pretty good idea to study how Hashimoto does it. While you're at it, you can also look at how Elkhan Mammadov (AZE) and Alan Khubetsov (RUS) do it. Both are also experts at this.

Ono (JPN) vs Sharipov (UZB) : 2012 Paris Grand Slam

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam


(Video courtesy of www.ijf.org)


In 2012, the year before he became World Champion, Shohei Ono took part in the Paris Grand Slam where he came up against Mirali Sharipov of Uzbekistan.

Sharipov, an unorthodox fighter, outgripped Ono and attacked him continuously but there was no score at the end of regular time. In Golden Score, Sharipov wasted no time in throwing Ono with a sumi-gaeshi-like tomoe-nage which scored yuko. That was enough to win him the match.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sainjargal (MGL) vs Ono (JPN): 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam


(Video courtesy of www.ijf.org)

Mongolia's recently-retired Nyam-Ochir Sainjargal is a tough fighter and in his fight against Shohei Ono at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix, he managed to impose a high grip on Ono while preventing the Japanese player from getting his own high grip.

But Sainjargal was not defensive. He put in his fair share of attacks, as did Ono. In the end though, it was Sainjargal's uchimata that scored the ippon.

Ono tried to stop the throw with his left arm. He was lucky it didn't break.

Ono was actually quite lucky he didn't break his arm trying to defend against that throw as you can see from the picture above. It was a good throw and a good win for the Sainjargal, one of the few players in the world who can say he has beaten Ono with Ono's favorite technique for ippon.

The men who managed to beat Ono

Part 1: Sainjargal (MGL) at the 2011 Qingdao Grand Prix
Part 2: Sharipov (UZB) at the 2012 Paris Grand Slam
Part 3: Wang (KOR) at the 2012 Tashkent Asian Championships
Part 4: Khashbaatar (MGL) at the 2013 Paris Grand Slam
Part 5: Lee (KOR) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships

Part 6: Iartcev (RUS) at the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships
Part 7: Akimoto (JPN) at the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam

Judo fans will miss out on watching Shohei Ono defend his World title because he won't be at the 2017 Budapest World Championships.

The reason is that he did not take part in the Japanese national trials (2017 All-Japan Weight Class Competition), ostensibly because he wanted to focus on his studies, and so he wasn't chosen.

Aside from France's Teddy Riner, it's hard to identify a judo player who is as feared as Ono, who hasn't been beaten since 2015 in IJF World Tour events. So dominant is he today that it's easy to forget that prior to 2015, he was beaten by a handful of players.

In fact 2014, was a pretty bad year for him. He was beaten three times that year. In 2013, he was beaten once, in 2012 twice and in 2011 once. Who are these guys who have beaten him at IJF events?

Well, he's lost to two Mongolians, two South Koreans, an Uzbek, a Russian and a fellow Japanese. Over the course of the next seven days, we'll be showing you highlights from those fights where Ono actually lost (and in some cases, it was by Ippon).

So stay tuned and enjoy this special 7-part mini-series.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

5 Common Mistakes in Cutting Weight

By Amelie Rosseneu

The World Championships is coming up, and soon we’ll start seeing athletes dieting and running around in sweat suits. According to a large scale research involving over 800 judo players at all levels, 82% percent of them are engaged in regular weight loss practices.

Most of them lose 2 to 5% of their bodyweight, while 40% is losing between 5 to 10% and some go even further than that and lose more than 10%. Losing weight in judo is so common it almost feels like it’s part of the sport.

Although many fighters are cutting weight few are doing so under the guidance of a dietitian. Ambition and lack of information are the causes of mistakes in the weight cutting process. Without knowing it, athletes are making their weight loss harder for themselves. Here are five common mistakes:

Mistake #1: Sports drink

A lot of athletes keep drinking sports drink during their weight cutting days. But sports drinks contain a relatively high amount of salt, which retains liquid and therefore sabotages their weight cutting efforts.

Mistake #2: Fruit and vegetables

There is a big difference in the method of weight loss over a long period of time and the tactics of weight cutting used during the last couple of days before weigh-in. While eating a lot of fruit and vegetables is a smart way to keep yourself feeling full during a long-term weight loss plan, this is not the right approach for weight cutting periods. Fruit and vegetables contain a lot of fiber and stay for a long time in the intestines. For judo players who need to lose weight for competition this dead weight is the last thing they want.

Mistake #3: Omelette for breakfast

When a competition is far away from home and you find yourself spending a few nights in a hotel, there is always the issue of finding the right food. Eggs for breakfast is a very tempting treat. Eggs are very healthy and contain high quality proteins, but when the hotel’s chef is frying them, there is no telling to how much salt he uses. If you can’t ask the chef to prepare the omelette without salt, you’d better skip it.

Mistake #4: Food on the airplane

Top athletes need to take a plane to go to various IJF World Tour Events. A small snack in the airplane doesn’t seem like it can do much damage to your weight but you’d be surprised. Airplane food always contains a lot of preservatives and additives which will interfere with your weight loss efforts.

Mistake #5: Dehydration too early

Weight cutting can be very stressful, particularly before an important event, when there’s so much weight to lose. Some athletes prefer to play it safe and start dehydrating one week before the competition. This way they reach their weight limit one or two days before the weigh-in and can have peace of mind. But this practice severely damages performance. It’s better to start dehydration as close to weigh-in as possible and spend less time in a dehydrated state.

Amelie Rosseneu is a former international competitor for Belgium and Israel. She is a dietitian and has written a new book: "Making Weight & Everything Else".

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ever heard of Daedo Judogi?

If you're a serious judo player, you would have heard of famous judogi brands like Mizuno, Kusakura, Fighting Films and Adidas. During the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, observers would have noticed a new judogi brand enter the scene: Kappa, which is normally more associated with football.
But have you heard of Daedo? It's traditionally associated with Taekwondo uniforms but apparently, it now also sells IJF-approved gis and has signed on two new ambassadors: Rustam Orujov and Orkhan Safarov.

Fabio Basile in the Italian Line-Up


Olympic Champion Fabio Basile has been absent from competition all of this year. His last IJF event since Rio 2016 was the Tokyo Grand Slam where he lost in the first round to a little-known Japanese player named Isoda Norihito (currently ranked No. 50 in the world). Will Basile make a spectacular comeback in Budapest and surprise everyone like he did in Rio? We shall see...

UAE's Moldovan Team


UAE is sending four players to the World Championships. All are imported players, believed to be from Moldova. Nothing wrong with having some imported players. Quite a few countries do that too. But no other country has a team comprising only of imported players. One can help but wonder when UAE will start sending home-grown players to top level competitions.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Israel's Team Line-Up


Israel's line up has some notable omissions: Sagi Muki (injured?), Or Sasson (retired?) and Yarden Gerbi (retired?).

The Georgian Team's Line Up


Things to note. Georgia is sending two players for -90kg and Avtandili Tchrikishvili is not one of them. It is also sending two heavyweights, Guram Tushishvili and Adam Okruashvili. I think they wold be better off replacing the latter with Levan Matiashvili.


Georgia used to have one female player only, the Dutch import Esther Stam. Now, they have three homegrown players. These will presumably be members of the Mixed Team event as well.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

All the predictions


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

+78kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Sarah Asahina has had a string of Grand Slam victories in the past year and has the best track record of all the leading contenders.
The one with the strongest track record going into Budapest is Japan's Sarah Asahina, winner of the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam, 2017 Paris Grand Slam and 2017 Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam.

China's World Champion Yu Song has competed only once since Rio 2016 and that was at the 2016 Qingdao Grand Prix which she won. But she is still certainly someone to contend with.

Other players to watch out for are Olympic Champion Emilie Andeole of France and rising star Maryna Slutskaya of Belarus.




+100kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Teddy Riner hasn't competed once since the Rio 2016 but he's been attending training camps and is still the top favorite for Budapest.
On paper, this is an easy one: Teddy Riner of France who has been unbeaten since 2011. Although capable of big throws, he is always prepared to play a strategic game when confronted with tough opponents in the final of an important competition like the World Championships or the Olympics. And with his excellent gripping he always comes up tops. He hasn't competed once since the 2016 Rio Olympics though. So we don't know what kind of shape he's in. But he has been going to international training camps so he's probably in fighting form.

The Japanese are sending two players for this category. Hisayoshi Harasawa fought Riner in the final of the Rio Olympics and although he was as bit tentative at the start, towards the end of the match, he was going after Riner fearlessly. If they meet again, he might not be as tentative. So, he is a real threat. Still, Riner is a master tactician. As for Takeshi Ojitani, he has never fought Riner, which would probably work towards his disadvantage as he would probably succumb to Riner's grips.

We are used to seeing big, fat players in the heavyweight division but none of these big, fat players have been able to dislodge Riner. Perhaps a more athletically-built heavyweight would be able to do so.

Israel's Or Sasson fought well against Riner in Rio but it doesn't look like he will be competing in Budapest. But there are two other athletic heavyweights to look out for. Guram Tushishvili of Georgia is the European Champion and he has excellent drop techniques. Lukas Krpalek has also done well adjusting to his new weight class and he is good at newaza. But both these men have never fought Riner, which again works to their disadvantage as they have never weathered his killer grips before. It's hard to imagine them being able to overcome that on their first try. 

-78kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Former World Champion Audrey Tcheumeo has the best track record in this category and is the likely gold medalist in Budapest.

For the longest time, the -78kg division saw a fierce tussle among three top players: USA's Kayla Harrison, France's Audrey Tcheumeo and Brazil's Mayra Aguiar.

Harrison has since retired. Aguiar has only competed once since Rio and she won at the 2017 Cancun Grand Prix. But Tcheumeo is the Olympic silver medallist and the current European Champion. She also won the Paris Grand Slam this year so she is in good form. She is probably the top favorite.

Former World Champion Mami Umeki of Japan is also a top contender. She is also in good form having won the 2017 Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam and the 2017 Dusseldorf Grand Prix.

Holland's Guusje Steenhuis has been performing well and is ranked No. 1 but she doesn't have the track record or experience of Tcheumeo, Umeki of Aguiar.

Hungary's Abigel Joo has a distinguished track record and is among the Top 5 in the IJF rankings. Home ground advantage might inspire her greatly.

-100kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Defending World Champion Ryonosuke Haga has not competed much since the Olympics but he is a top prospect for Budapest.
The clear favorite here is defending World Champion Ryonosuke Haga of Japan. He had lost to the Czech Republic's Lukas Krpalek in the 2016 Rio Olympics but Krpalek has since moved up a category. Haga has competed in only one IJF World Tour event since the Olympics -- the 2017 Hohhot Grand Prix -- and he won that one, defeating Russia's Kirll Denisov in the final.

His compatriot Aaron Wolf is also representing Japan in this weight category. While Wolf has done well in domestic competitions, his international track record is not as impressive as Haga's. This is reflected in their rankings. Haga is 7th while Wolf is 31st.

Other exciting players to watch out for are former World Champion Elkhan Mammadov of Azerbaijan; Olympic silver medalist Elmar Gasimov also of Azerbaijan; and double World Silver Medallist Kirill Denisov, who has just moved up to this weight class. And don't forget, Georgia's Varlam Liparteliani is in this weight category too. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

-70kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Chizuru Arai has had a fantastic run in the lead up to the World's with many wins in major competitions.
 The top favorites for the -70kg gold are all within the Top 3 in the IJF Rankings but it's the No. 3, Japan's Chizuru Arai, who looks to be the leading candidate for the top spot in Budapest. Her track record is impressive with 2016 Tyumen Grand Slam gold, 2017 Paris Grand Slam gold and 2017 Dusseldorf Grand Prix gold.

Colombia's Yuri Alvear is also a major contender as she does remarkably well at the World's. She's won it three times already. And she's got a good competition record in the lead up to the World's. But she's already 31 while Arai has got youth on her side at 23.

The world ranked No. 1, Elvismar Rodriguez (who fights for the IJF) is definitely a contender but she doesn't yet have the track record of either Arai or Alvear.

-90kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Krisztian Toth has not been in his best form lately but home ground advantage may be enough to push him all the way to the top.
The top favorite for the -90kg gold won't be in Budapest due to injury. Japan's Olympic Champion Mashu Baker seriously injured his shoulder in the All-Japan Weight Class Championships, and had to undergo an operation. This unfortunately meant that he would have to skip the World's.

The Olympic silver medalist Varlam Liparteliani of Georgia has moved up to -100kg so he won't be competing in this division either. His fellow Georgian, Beka Gviniashvili, who fought at -100kg in Rio, has moved back down to -90kg. He is a powerful player and certainly a contender for the top spot but there are many others who are good prospects for the gold.

Krisztian Toth is both powerful and technical and was a World silver medalist. So, he's definitely a top prospect but his form has been a bit off lately. Still, he has the benefit of home ground advantage and that could be enough to tip the scales in his favor. By virtue of this, he probably is the top favorite.

Two other hot contenders are Aleksandar Kukolj of Servbia, the reigning European champion; and Cheng Xunzhao of China who amazed everyone at the Olympic Games when he demolished the legendary Ilias Iliadis of Greece, Hungary's Toth and Marcus Nyman of Sweden, with his trademark ippon-osoto-gari. Cheng later used that same technique to win himself the 2017 Paris Grand Slam gold medal. He has been absent from international competition since then though.

-63kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Tina Trstenjak is the odds-on favorite. She has won the last four times she fought her rival Clarisse Agbegnenou of France.
There are two very obvious top contenders here: Tina Trstenjak of Slovenia and Clarisse Agbegnenou of France. Of the two, Trstenjak has the slight edge. She is the defending Olympic, World and European champion and she has won the last four encounters with Agbegnenou.

Israel's Yarden Gerbi is not competing. She hasn't competed since Rio 2016 and might be retired.

Kathrin Unterwurzacher of Austria is a steady campaigner who has been busy competing since the 2016 Rio Olympics. Notably, she won gold in the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam. The last time she fought Trstenjak, in 2016, she lost. But who knows what could happen in Budapest.


Friday, July 21, 2017

South Korean Men's & Women's Teams


The men's team will have 9 members. The big surprise is Kim Won Jin will not be fighting at -60kg. The team has two players at -66kg and two at -90kg.

Not quite a full team, with 8 players. It has two players at -70kg. Jeong Bo-kyeong's absence is surprising. Maybe injured?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mongolian Men's & Women's Teams


The men's team mostly has the usual suspects but noticeably missing from the line-up is Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj. In his place at -66kg is lesser-known Kherlen Ganbold who last won IJF World Tour gold medals in 2012 and 2013. Granted, Davaadorj hasn't been on form lately but he is far more accomplished and experienced. It's a bit of surprise to see him left out. Mongolia is sending two players each for the -60kg and +100kg divisions. Their national hero, Olympic ChampionTuvshinbayar Naidan, now already 33, is still competing but at +100kg. Can he take on Riner?



Mongolia is not sending a full women's team. They are not sending anyone at -78kg but will have two representatives each at -57kg and -63kg.

-81kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Khasan Khalmurzaev hasn't fought much since winning gold in Rio 2016 but when he does he shines. He is the top prospect in Budapest.

The -81kg category used to be loaded with lots of really top and exciting players like South Korea's World & Olympic Champion Kim Jae-Bum (now retired), Georgia's World Champion Avtandili Tchrikishvili (moved up a weight class), France's World Champion Loic Pietri (not selected) and USA's Olympic Silver Medalist Travis Stevens (seemingly retired).

They are all gone now but there remains two big prospects for the gold: Olympic Champion Khasan Khalmurzaev of Russia and World Champion Takanori Nagase of Japan. Both have fought very little since the 2016 Rio Olympics but when they did, they shone brightly. Khalmurzaev won the 2017 Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam while Nagase won the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam. These men have fought only once, in 2015 at the Rabat World Masters where Nagase was triumphant.

The interesting thing is that while Khalmurzaev is ranked No. 2, Nagase is currently outside the Top 10 (he's currently No. 11). Depending on the draw, they might end up on the same side of the pool, which means they could meet earlier in the day rather than in the final.

Alan Khubetsov of Russia is the current World No. 1 and he has a great sode-tsurikomi-goshi. He is also the European Champion but he doesn't have the track record of Khalmurzaev.

Attila Ungvari is the home favorite. He did well in the Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam where he made it to the final (he lost to Khalmurzaev there). With home ground advantage, he might just pull off a suprise.

Other exciting players to watch are Ivaylo Ivanov of Bulgaria and Frank De Wit of the Netherlands, both of whom use a modified version of the Khabarelli technique with great effect. For more traditional or classical judo, you have to look at Victor Penalber of Brazil, who has massive throwing skills. Lastly, it's worth looking out for Antoine Valois-Fortier who recently won the Hohhot Grand Prix, defeating Russia's Khubetsov.

Japanese Men's & Women's Teams


The Japanese men's team will comprise of the full 9 members allowed. It has decided to do away with the -90kg category after Mashu Baker got injured and had to have surgery. It will have two -60kg players, two -100kg players and two +100kg players.


The women's team will also have 9 members and has an intriguing line up. It has done away with the -63kg division because it felt that there was no one among its players who was good enough. It is sending two -48kg players, two -52kg players and two -78kg players.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

-57kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Tsukasa Yoshida (in white) has a massive uchimata that would make Japan's head coach Kosei Inoue proud. She's the top favorite
This category has two notable absentees -- Japan's Kaori Matsumoto and France's Automne Pavia, both of whom just gave birth.

Originally, I had listed Mongolia Sumiya Dorjsuren as the top favorite for this category based on her very strong performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she dispatched Matsumoto for ippon like it was child's play. She eventually took a silver but her final against Brazil's Rafaela Silva was a hard-fought one. She was on fine form. However, in looking more closely at her track record since Rio, her performance has not been impressive. Despite taking part in several IJF World Tour events, she hasn't won a single one so far. Silva's performance is just as bad. She too has been competing in several IJF World Tour events but hasn't won any yet.

So, I'm switching my prediction for gold to Japan's Tsukasa Yoshida, the girl with the devastating uchimata. She is the current Asian Champion and last year she won the Tokyo Grand Slam. It was also last year that she beat both Dorjsuren and Silva. So she definitely knows how to fight these two.

South Korea's little-known Kwon You-Jeong is a dark horse. She's relatively young at 22 and has had only a few international matches under her belt but she shocked everyone by winning the 2017 Paris Grand Slam. Interestingly, she defeated Yoshida in that event although the Japanese player got her revenge in the recent Asian Championships, where she beat Kwon in the final. Kwon's not a top favorite by any means but is definitely someone to look out for.

Another dark horse worth paying attention to is Taiwan's Lien Cheng-ling. A late bloomer who is already 29, she won her first IJF World Tour title this year at the 2017 Baku Grand Slam. She famously beat Matsumoto in groundwork at last year's IJF World Masters and very narrowly lost to Matsumoto in Rio. She's definitely a strong contender.

Two oldies but goodies are Portugal's Telma Monteiro and USA's Marti Malloy. Both are 31 but still competing. Monteiro is a Rio Olympics bronze medalist and Malloy recently won the 2017 Cancun Grand Prix. Who knows, they might just spring a surprise and defeat the young ones.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

-73kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Soichi Hashimoto's reputation might not loom as large as Shohei Ono's has but he is already a dominant force in the category.
The top favorite here is also the IJF No. 1 ranked player in this category: Soichi Hashimoto of Japan. Armed with impressive throwing skills -- he's able to throw the left and to the right, with equal facility -- he has been undefeated all of this year and last year. Along the way, he has picked up gold medals at the 2016 Asian Championships, 2016 IJF World Masters, 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam, 2017 Paris Grand Slam and 2017 Ekaterinburg Grand Slam. Confident, stylish and effective, Hashimoto is the man everyone will be looking out for in Budapest.

One of Hashimoto's main rivals will be An Changrim, arguably South Korea's best prospect for a gold medal in any category. He is Asian champion this year but he has not fought much since the Olympics. In the 2017 Paris Grand Slam (the only IJF World Tour event he's taken part in since the 2016 Rio Olympics) An got a silver medal, losing to Hashimoto, no less.

Hashimoto's other key rival is Olympic silver medalist Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan. Always at or near the top of the IJF rankings, he's very active and takes part in a lot of IJF World Tour events. This year he has lost to An and to his compatriot Hidayat Heydarov (twice) though.

Speaking of Heydarov, it's likely that both he and Orujov will be sent to the World's. He's still very young at 19 but is the current European champion. He also won the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games defeating his teammate Orujov in the final. He had also beaten Orujov earlier in the year at the 2017 Paris Grand Slam.

Dark horses are Georgia's Lasha Shavdatuashvili, a former Olympic champion (albeit at a lower weight class) and Russia's Dennis Iartcev who holds the distinction of being the last European player to have beaten the great Shohei Ono (but that was back in 2014 in the World Team Championships). Alas, Ono is not fighting in the World's as he did not take part in the Japanese trials this year (ostensibly due to wanting to focus on his academic studies).