The usual suspects put on a terrific show, opening the first day of the World Judo Championships, Doha 2023. That being said, on occasion, the front runners were a little shaken by the future stars of the show.
Namely in the -60kg category, we had high hopes for the 2021 junior world silver medallist, Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) and even though he was taking on the current Olympic champion and legend, TAKATO Naohisa (JPN), hope remained. In fact in the first minute, the crowd believed it all to be over for the Japanese and a stunning ippon win for Bayramov, but the score was not awarded. It was a long and close contest but in the end, it was a win for Japan.
Similarly for his higher ranked team mate Balabay AGHAYEV, he was sent out of the tournament by crowd-favourite, Younes SADDIKI (MAR).
Coming through the ranks with Bayramov is the 2021 junior world champion, Giorgi SARDALASHVILI (GEO) who found himself in the quarter final against double European champion and world bronze medallist, an -60kg staple, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP). The more senior of the two was also junior world champion back in 2014 and as it happened, his seniority and abilities in ne waza saw him in to the semi final against Takato. Thankfully for the Georgian, he turned the tables in his repechage contest, winning the chance for a world bronze with how own ne waza.
Garrigos really found his footing in the semi final and both went in to the final half of the contest with a waza-ari score each, the pair heading in to golden score. With the odds stacked against him, Garrigos was fighting hard for the win and eventually the arena could celebrate the take down of the Olympic champion and Garrigos going in to his first senior world final.
On the other side of the draw Jorre VERSTRAETEN (BEL) defeated current Olympic bronze medallist Luka MKHEIDZE (FRA) early on and defeated LEE Harim (KOR) in a beautiful windmill action. However, Dilshodbek BARATOV (UZB) managed to get the better of the Belgian athlete in the semis and sent Vertstraeten to the bronze contest after one of his best performances to date, going to show how difficult and strong this category is. He will face Sardalashvili for the medal.
The French number one and three seeds Shrine BOUKLI and Blandine PONT did not disappoint throughout the day and both made it in to their respective finals against Abiba ABUZHAKYNOVA (KAZ) and current world champion TSUNODA Natsumi (JPN). It has been a tremendous turn of events this year for Pont as she has been collecting gold medals all over the IJF World Tour and for Boukli, prior to this world championships, a seventh place was her best result.
Boukli secured her grand finale position with a huge o goshi within the first half of the contest, and now has a guaranteed medal in this world championships. Pont was put under pressure and was chasing Tsunoda in to the final minute with a waza ari score on the board for the 2022 world champion. Unfortunately for Team France, it won’t be an all-French final however Pont will still compete for the bronze. Can Boukli steal the title?
Joining Pont in the bronze medal contests, but on the other side is Assunta SCUTTO (ITA). This will be her second time fighting for a senior world bronze following her 2022 success in Tashkent.
The final block will commence at 18:00 local time, follow the live action at JudoTV.com.
Author: Thea Cowen