One current and one former world champion who are locked in a battle as the top two athletes in the -81kg category. The final of the 2022 world championships isn’t one anyone will forget in a hurry, probably one of the only golden scores that we hoped would never end and had everyone on the edge of their seats for the entirety of the contest. So much so that the pair were awarded for their exemplary battle, showing off both their technical abilities and warrior mentality, yet compassion for one another in the aftermath. This duo personify the judo values and have earned respect for it, as well as their respect for one another.
To be the best, you need to beat the best and they will endeavour to see each other in the final once again, coming from either side of the draw. However, this isn’t a two-man race and neither men are unbeatable. A humbling reminder that this sport has no problem dishing out.
Looking beyond the seeding firstly, we have Joao FERNANDO (POR) WRL #35, who put a kink in Casse’s armour in the Paris Grand Slam, and even below him, world bronze medallist Anri EGUTIDZE from the same team. Egutidze tried his hand in the -90kg category but ultimately was too light to contend with the leaders and has returned home.
Though they will be potential threats later on in the fourth day of competition due to seeding positions, Grigalashvili and Casse need to keep in mind their seeded rivals. Saeid MOLLAEI (AZE) is also a former world champion and still has the ability to retain his title, taking Casse in to a phenomenal final bout during the Antalya Grand Slam, and looked in control until the Belgian stole the show with his ne waza skills. Also in the top eight are Guilherme SCHIMIDT (BRA), Alpha Oumar DJALO (FRA), Attila UNGVARI (HUN) and Vedas ALBAYRAK (TUR). At number six is Olympic medallist Shamil BORCHASHVILI (AUT) and he will certainly remember this event as he will share the stage with brother and Tbilisi Grand Slam winner, Wachid in the -81kg category.
Lurking further down the list is the current Olympic champion, NAGASE Takanori (JPN), around the same place as Frank DE WIT (NED) and 2019 world champion Sage MUKI (ISR), all whom could cause significant upset.
Author: Thea Cowen