This is the Olympic Games, there are no ‘easy’ categories, and day five is proving it.
Though we can’t only talk about the top eight given the saturation of incredible talent in both categories, within the seeding positions, six out of eight in each weight are representing Europe and if we were to only look at those statistics, it would mean a 75% chance of Europe taking the gold. Statistics however, are very different to the real thing.
In the -90kg category we have multiple world title holders not to mention the slew of European accomplishments. Not only talking about the top eight, but in general the whole category is daunting, with the only returning Olympic medallist from 2016, GWAK Donghan (KOR), ranked at #14.
Starting with the #1 seed, Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) set out to achieve his second and final world title in the -90kg category as he will be changing categories following the Olympics and he did it in style. He proved that his 2018 world title wasn’t a one-off, and is not only going to the games as the highest ranked male athlete in the world but will be seeking out his golden back patch whilst once again wearing the red one.
This won’t be deterring his opponents though. The -90kg category is special in the way that it is completely unpredictable. We may have the top seeds in place but it really is the category that delivers the most surprises. The 2019 world champion, Noel VAN T END (NED) will not be wanting any of course. The number two seed is on top form for Tokyo as are his rivalling Europeans in the top eight; TOTH Krisztian (HUN), Lasha BEKAURI (GEO), Nemanja MAJDOV (SRB) and Mikhail IGOLNIKOV (ROC).
The above line up doesn’t even include the comeback king, Marcus NYMAN (SWE) who takes two years away from the IJF circuit between the Olympic events or world medallists, Mihael ZGANK (TUR) and Axel CLERGET (FRA). It really is incredible how you can have such a huge selection regularly on the podium of the top events, which goes to show the level of the -90kg is very high and any Olympic medal assumptions will be made in vain.
Like the men, we have some serious contenders in the -70kg women’s category. Interestingly, the top two women in the WRL are not competing in Tokyo based on national federation decisions and because of this, the current European champion and world bronze medallist Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED) enters as the #1 seed.
The Dutch woman has serious fight in her and needed it to prove that team Netherlands should be bringing her to the Olympics and not Kim POLLING. She has more than proven her abilities and is capable of coming out on top in Tokyo.
Margaux PINOT (FRA) was required to do the same and instead of the higher ranked French athlete, Marie Eve GAHIE packing her bags for Japan, it is Pinot. Arguably this was the right decision based on performance, despite Gahie taking the world title in 2019, it is Pinot that has been consistently on the podium and winning against the top seeds.
Ranked four and five for Tokyo are current world champion, Barbara MATIC (CRO) and Michaela POLLERES (AUT), the latter also medalling in Budapest taking bronze. Matic will certainly be coming to Tokyo on a high following her history-writing performance. There are of course Giovanna SCOCCIMARRO (GER) and Anna BERNHOLM (SWE) in the top eight with Madina TAIMAZOVA (ROC) and Barbara TIMO (POR) just outside, but all are capable of standing on that podium. The only non-European in the top ten is ARAI Chizuru (JPN).
Author: Thea Cowen