16 May 2024


World Championships Seniors (Individual+Teams)


Days four of the Abu Dhabi World Judo Championships 2024 will welcome the -70kg, -78kg and -90kg athletes in to the Mubadala Arena.

A recent change in the entry means that world ranked #1 and recently crowned European Champion, Barbara MATIC (CRO), will not be in attendance, nor will the #2 Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED) who has made the decision not to compete until Paris and focus on preparation instead. That means that heading the -70kg category is the European Vice Champion, Elisavet TELTSIDOU (GRE). It has been a long and trying road for the Greek athlete, and left Zagreb with a bittersweet taste of silver, but was satisfied with her performance nonetheless. Following Teltsidou is Olympic silver medallist, Michaela POLLERES (AUT) and Croatia’s second in command, Lara CVJETKO who earned a silver medals in both Dushane and Kazakhstan in the past two weeks. Representing Europe in the top eight are still Ai TSUNODA ROUSTANT (ESP), Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA) and Madina TAIMAZOVA (AIN).

Elisavet TELTSIDOU (GRE) © Gabi Juan

In 2023, Giovanna SCOCCIMARRO (GER) became the silver medal winner in Doha, after making a stunning recovery, only to suffer another minor setback which saw team mate Miriam BUTKEREIT overtake in the world ranking list. However, Butkereit will not be in Abu Dhabi, after seemingly picking up an injury during the European Championships and was unable to compete in the semi final or for bronze. Kim POLLING debuted for Italy in Kazakhstan and pulled a Polling performance, earning a bronze medal and pushing herself to #15 in the world ranking list. Portugal’s youngster Tais PINA has also ‘landed’, after causing ripples with a silver medal in Antalya, the 19 year old was geared to take gold in Kazakhstan last week.

Last year, we had an all-Georgian final in the -90kg category, yet this year the highest ranked will be Giorgi JABNIASHVILI, the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam bronze medallist, who repeated a bronze medal performance in Upper Austria. Topping the -90kg category is TOTH Krisztian (HUN), one of the most consistent athletes on the IJF World Tour, and taking a gold this year in Abu Dhabi would complete his senior world medal collection. Mihael ZGANK (TUR) has also been on fire this year with consecutive wins in Portugal and Paris, whereas Nemanja MAJDOV (SRB) has been slightly off the pace. World Championship success came very early in Majdov’s career, at only 20 years old, but has since medalled in 2019, as well as picking up numerous Grand Slam achievements and a European title in November.

Eljan HAJIYEV (AZE) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

2024 has been the year of Eljan HAJIYEV (AZE) in the -90kg category. Kickstarting the year with a bronze medal in Portugal, he has placed second in two Grand Slams, and third in Kazakhstan, but his most impressive performance came in Zagreb. Defeating the current Olympic Champion, Lasha BEKAURI (GEO), he proved he was on top form and went on to take the European title. The accumulation of these wins has sent him soaring up the world ranking list to #17, and as a consequence, is climbing closer to team mate Murad FATIYEV who sits at #11.

Some places may look set in stone, but the points that can be garnered in a World Championships (2000 for the gold medal) can be life-changing. For the European athletes, there are three major head to heads, deciding their Olympic fate in the next week. First up at the German duo; WRL #2 and #5, Anna-Maria WAGNER and Alina BOEHM. It has been an exciting to and fro for spectators and judo fans, but there are added pressures and so, obligations for these women. After Wagner’s silver win in the European Championships, she considered stepping back and resting, however, she knew that Boehm would be on her tail and couldn’t risk falling behind. It has become a similar story for Yelyzaveta LYTVYNENKO and Yuliia KURCHENKO of Ukraine.

Alina BOEHM (GER) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Lytvynenko came through as a super power in the Tashkent World Championships 2022, the same year she became Junior European Champion, defeating the current Olympic Champion, HAMADA Shori for the world bronze medal. Since then it has been a steady journey, but Kurchenko has worked hard to play catch up, especially this year winning the Tbilisi Grand Slam, and now only 700 points separate them. Finally, Abu Dhabi could very well decide for Great Britain who is sent to Paris, will it be Emma REID or Natalie POWELL? If it were to be Powell, this would be her third Olympic Games but a first for Reid who won a convincing Grand Slam bronze medal last week.

Now aside from the home nation battles, we have Alice BELLANDI (ITA) who vowed to improve on her silver medal performance last year, Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) has been moving stronger and stronger with each passing event and we also have a double act from France. Though Madeleine MALONGA has already secured her Olympic selection, only two world ranking places behind her is Olympic silver and bronze medallist, Audrey TCHEUMEO, who just took her fifth continental title in Zagreb. It is fact that we will be greatly entertained by this category on the 22nd of May.

‘Watch this space’ Alice BELLANDI (ITA) © Gabi Juan


Author: Thea Cowen