Preview Women’s U52kg: Kuzyutina aiming for gold in RotterdamNatalia Kuzyutina (RUS) is just 20 years old, but already the current European Champion. In the final she beat Spain’s Ana Carrascosa, who won the World Cup in Madrid.
The Netherlands’ Kitty Bravik won the bronze at the European championship and also gained some medals at other major events this year.
The last European world champion in this category was Marie-Claire Restoux of France in 1997. Her compatriot Audrey La Rizza (FRA) has won a bagful of silver medals this year, at the French Championships, and at the Grand Slams of Paris and Rio, but she seems to lack the ability to go that extra step and claim gold.
Romy Tarangul (GER) can expect some extra fans from Germany, but that will also apply for 32-year old Ilse Heylen of Belgium. She even had her fanclub in Tblisi this year, watching and cheering as she took the bronze medal at the European Championships.
China is traditionally strong in this category, claiming the 2008 Olympic title and last two world titles, but will be looking to a new generation to continue their dominance in Rotterdam.
Hongmei He, 25, will represent China, coming to the event as Asian Champion after winning in May in Taipei. She also reached the final at the Grand Prix in Hamburg this year, losing to Misato Nakamura (JPN).
Nakamura is the favourite for the division, with convincing wins in Hamburg and Moscow this year.
It has been 10 years since Japan celebrated a world title in this category and of all 15 world titles contested in this division, Japan has only won twice, through Kaori Yamaguchi (1984) and Noriko Narazaki (1999).
African medal candidates are Hajer Barhoumi (TUN) and Ratiba Tariket (ALG).
World Champion U48kg Yanet Bermoy (CUB) is now fighting in this weight class after recently switching category.
When she became world champion U48kg in 2007, it was the first time the crown had been taken by a non-Japanese since 1991. In Beijing she won the silver medal, but in this category it’s still unknown if she can reach the same performances.
Erika Miranda (BRA) is the only judoka from the top 8 of the last world championships to be present in this category in Rotterdam.
Miranda lost the bronze bout at the 2007 Rio World Championships.
Another Pan American judoka in this category is Kate Bouyssou of the USA, who recently turned 15 in June and is the youngest competitor amongst the approximately 600 judokas in Rotterdam.
Asia’s number two Munkhbaatar Bundmaa is paired with European Champion Natalia Kuzyutina in the first round, while Mediterranean Champion Barhoumi will face Audrey La Rizza in her first match.