The Olympic year has officially arrived. It is 2024 and for the elite league, the destination is clear: PARIS. However, judo is for all, so let’s take a stroll down our avenue of events, be ‘in the know’, plan what to watch and where to go in 2024.
The year will kickstart with the famous, snowy Mittersill EJU OTC. Whilst the weather is not everyone’s favourite, the quality of the camp certainly is. Meanwhile, next door officials will gather in Hungary for the IJF Refereeing and Coaching seminar of the year. Towards the end of the month the IJF World Tour awakens with their first gathering in Odivelas, Portugal where Grand Prix titles will be up for grabs. Besides medals, the winners will bag 700, rather valuable, qualifying points. The Herstal EJU OTC in Belgium will start end of January.
This month has always been famous of the magnifique Paris Grand Slam and no difference this year as the first weekend thousands will gather from all over the world – not only to compete but to watch this prestigious 50th anniversary. A week later, our youth will begin their journey with the Follonica Cadet Cup and training camp. Simultaneously more qualifying points will be available at the first European Open in Gyor and straight from there, the flight will take off to Azerbaijan for their annual Baku Grand Slam. No rest for the cadets either as they hop from Italy to Spain to continue their European Cup tour in Fuengirola. The last destination this month to gain Olympic points, or greater experience, will be Warsaw, Poland. The Kata team will also kickstart their tour in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, with their first tournament of the year as well as a seminar jointly.
As spring hopefully hits the sky by around March, the elite will meet in Tashkent for yet another Grand Slam, respected price money, and 1000 points for glory. During the same weekend the juniors will begin their yearly routine with the first junior European Cup in Sarajevo. As if that’s not a busy weekend already, the cadets will test one another in Antalya simultaneously. Strong training camps to top it all. Still early March, Austria will host a Grand Prix again. This tournament was a great success last year and undoubtedly will be the same this year. With such a central destination, this event is expected to be packed. Meanwhile, Podgorica will accommodate the juniors with a cup and a camp. Between 11-18 March your heroes will likely reside at another OTC, in Nymburk precisely. To wrap up a hectic month, the Tbilisi Grand Slam, Pordenone Kata tournament, Coimbra junior cup, Porec and Samorin cadet cups will take place. Are there any free weekends left in this month? Of course, 29-31 March is booked for the Antalya Grand Slam.
After collecting all the airmiles in March, this month will quiet down a bit… well one would think. Quite the opposite. April is the month for the continental championships. Europe’s top will head to Zagreb for the title whilst Pan-America and Oceania will gather in Brazil, Africa’s finest will head to Egypt and Asia’s best will meet in Hong-Kong. Apparently, April is the month of stress awareness and there will be plenty of that as these events will be crucial, and rest assured the Olympic ranking list, in some weight categories, will get messy and tense.
The European Championships in Zagreb will take place at the end of the month so there is still time to make a stop at the Hungarian annual OTC in Tata. Of course, we are not forgetting the upcoming generation and the prominent Teplice, Berlin and Telavi cadet cups running this month. Lignano and Poznan will house the juniors. Kata specialists will once again meet in Loan to advance their already remarkable timing and precision.
In the middle of their high school homework and exams, both cadets and juniors will have three destinations to choose from. The latter will have a selection of Paris, Malaga and Kaunas cups whilst the younger ones will head to Azerbaijan, Bielsko-Biala and Coimbra.
And the elites? Oh, no rest for the wicked, May kicks off with more and more valuable Olympic points. The destination: Dushanbe Grand Prix. A week later we all gather for the last and final IJF World Tour series, the Almaty Grand Slam. Will it be a repeat of 2016 where many dreams were broken and built? Well, the difference between then and now is that the actual last and final event this qualifying period is going to be the World Judo Championships 2024. The location for the final show is Abu Dhabi, UAE. Those who are safely set into their Olympic spot, are likely to skip the worlds and begin their preparation for the big day at the Papendal OTC.
Despite having had the final Olympic list out by this time, there are plenty to look out for as three continental championships taking place in the heat. The Veterans are heading to Sarajevo with the Kata experts, whilst the cadets will turn to a new destination, Samokov in Bulgaria. All winners at all locations, at all age and style will be crowned with a European title. The juniors will still be on the road for more European cups in Graz, Birmingham and Slovenj. The European Open in Madrid, and the Ullaanbaatar Grand Slam will serve many purposes from preparation event to the Games to opening the doors to the LA2028 waves. The annual Porec OTC alongside the annual Judo Festival will also aid the same opportunities.
JULY / AUGUST
This is it, no matters what else is going on this month, all eyes are on Paris. The Olympic Games will be held between 27 July – 03 August. There is plenty to look forward to between the end of May and THE DAY or rather THE WEEK. Questions will be answered such as ‘is it Barbara MATIC or Lara CVJETKO in the -70kg list for Croatia?’ ‘Who is running for host glory in the -78kg?’ ‘What of the Georgian battle between Luka MAISURADZE and Lasha BEKAURI?’ ‘Was the latter able to make it, let alone attempting to double on his Olympic glory?’ ‘How many medals did Kosovo collected this time around?’ Did Assunta SCUTTO make her debut one to remember?’ ‘Outside of Europe, how did Jessica KLIMKAIT and Christa DEGUCHI get on in the final race?’ ‘How many of the male divisions did Japan take victory in?’ ‘Did the Abe’s doubled again?’
It seems like a long road ahead, but it will be done and dusted before we know it. What is for the rest of the year? Let’s discuss after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Until then, enjoy the journey.
Author: Szandra Szogedi