It feels like a long time since we were celebrating a world championships, and in fact, the 2021 edition has preceded the Olympic Games, and this upcoming event by 15 months. The current title holders have managed to hold on to their glory for a little while longer than usual but can they remain at the top?
In the -60kg category, we will be missing Yago ABULADZE but Japan’s TSUNODA Natsumi will be gracing the tatami on day one in a bid to demonstrate her title winning abilities in the -48kg category.
Challenging Tsunoda is team mate, 2017 world champion, and two-time silver medallist TONAKI Funa. This battle is strong enough, but Europe’s top contenders will give them a run for their money. At the top of the roster is the current European champion, Shirine BOUKLI (FRA) who recently came back to competition since this achievement and secured gold in her preparation for Tashkent.
It hasn’t been such a strong return for the European vice champion, Catarina COSTA (POR) who struggled against the Chinese influx during the Coimbra Senior European Cup event. Though there are some incredibly strong athletes in the top 8, including Julia FIGUEROA (ESP) and Shira RISHONY (ISR). The limelight will also be on Italian youngster Assunta SCUTTO.
The 20 year-old Italian took the junior world title last year, and just missed out on gold in Ecuador, but what caught our attention was her Grand Slam win against the WRL #1, Boukli in Abu Dhabi.
Olympic silver medallist, Yung Wei YANG (TPE) leads the charge in the lightest of the men’s categories, and he is being chased down by a slew of potential champions.
Jorre VERSTRAETEN (BEL) most recently devoured his opponents in the Grand Slam Hungary, defeating former world champion, Lukhumi CHKHVIMIANI (GEO) for the gold. A world medal has evaded the Belgian up to this point but it may be the right time for him to step on to the podium of the world stage. Of course, Chkhvimiani will also be looking to right this wrong in Hungary and ensure this loss doesn’t see a repeat.
Also in the running is Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP). The Spaniard has taken two consecutive European titles now, and last year secured a bronze medal in the world championships, but will be looking to find himself in the final this year. He was caught off guard by the up and coming Giorgi SARDALASHVILI (GEO) in Zagreb but with this preparation period firmly complete, the focus is on for the world title.
Speaking of the new generation, France has entered their future -60kg hopeful, Romain VALADIER PICARD. The 2021 junior European champion has gone from strength to strength, taking a grand slam medal at home in Paris and this year has found himself on podiums at multiple levels including the Grand Slam Hungary and the junior world championships.
There is always the allure of supporting the underdog and there are many competing in these world championships, prepare to be surprised!
Author: Thea Cowen