Tuesday, July 18, 2017

-52kg 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)

There's no such thing as a "sure thing" in judo but Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi sure comes pretty close to it.
Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi for gold.

I could end the analysis with just that sentence above because in all likelihood, she will win it. Nobody else comes close. Of course, as they say, anything can happen in judo so yes, there could be an upset. But it's extremely unlikely.

Since she won her first World title in 2013, Kelmendi has had only one defeat in four years. That was to Erika Miranda of Brazil in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, just two months after Kelmendi returned to competition after a very long layoff due to injury (Kelmendi was out of competition from January 2015 through August 2015 due to knee and back injuries).

So dominant is Kelmendi in this category that I would say everyone else is considered a dark horse. So, let's go through them, starting with Miranda. There's no doubting she's a top player but I just don't see Miranda repeating her Abu Dhabi victory against a well-prepared and uninjured Kelmendi.

Kelmendi herself has said that Natalia Kuziutina of Russia is one of her toughest rivals. Perhaps she says that because early in her career, in 2010, Kelmendi lost twice to this Russian. But since then they have fought three more times and all three went to Kelmendi.

Three-time World Champion Misato Nakamura of Japan is the other great rival to Kelmendi but they have fought only once, at the 2016 Rio Olympics where the Japanese lost by a mere shido. Nakamura seems to have retired though and has not fought since Rio. In Budapest, the Japanese representative is likely to be Natsumi Tsunoda, the winner of the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam. She has shown great potential and has beaten Miranda as well as Krasniqi although she lost to Kelmendi at the 2017 Paris Grand Slam.

Actually, the player who can give Kelmendi the toughest time is probably her training partner and compatriot, Distria Krasniqi. They know each other so well that when they meet each other in competition it's usually decided by penalties rather than a throw. But there is the question of whether Krasniqi can make it to the final.

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