21 May 2024


World Championships Seniors (Individual+Teams)


With only two of the fourteen weight categories competing on day three of the 2024 World Judo Championships in Abu Dhabi, we were in for a somewhat swift final block. The -63kg and -81kg delivered countless surprises in the preliminary rounds, leaving only one of the defending World Champions to defend their title; Tato GRIGALASHVILI (GEO).

The -63kg women were up first, and the favourite of the day was the six-time, defending World Champion, Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) who feel to Catherine BEAUCHEMIN-PINARD (CAN) in the quarter final. Fighting back through the repechage seemed to give her a second wind in her bronze medal contest against Andreja LESKI (SLO) who had come from a semi final loss. This head to head was repeat of the final last year and Leski did not want to be on the losing side again, and gave a great effort, leading in to golden score. Unfortunately for Leski, it wasn’t to be today, picking up a third shido.

Next up was Laura FAZLIU (KOS) against Beauchemin-Pinard, and with World and Olympic Champion, Majlinda KELMENDI in her chair, it seemed the pair were unstoppable. The Canadian athlete struggled against the strength of her bronze medal opponent but felt confident enough to attack with o uchi gari, only to be countered for waza ari. It seemed to be a matter of will and determination that assisted the defence of Fazliu, in order to collect her first senior world medal.

Then came the gold medal challengers, deciding who would win the 2024 world title. Both Angelika SZYMANSKA (POL) and Joanne VAN LIESHOUT (NED) had proven today that they were dangerous in ne waza, and were aware of each others skills heading in to the contest, so though both were keen to get to the ground, they were equally as good at defending.

Van Lieshout had the first major opportunity, tying up Szymanska on the ground, but eventually mate was called. With less than a minute left on the clock, Szymanska managed to attack with uchi mata but was countered, and this waza ari score was the title winner for the 21 year-old Dutch athlete. Van Lieshout already bested her 2023 bronze result but can also boast that she is the first female title winner for the Netherlands since 2009!

After much celebration for the all-European podium in the -63kg category, we moved in to an all-Asian bronze medal contest between Sharofiddin BOLTABOEV (UZB) and LEE Joonhwan (KOR), the latter taking the first medal in the -81kg category. Somon MAKHMADBEKOV (TJK) continued the Asian representation in the following bronze medal bout against surprise of the day, Dimitri GOCHILAIDZE (GEO). The contest went in to golden score, with Gochilaidze on the back foot, having earned two shidos to Makhmadbekov’s one in the first four minutes. It was an exciting back and forth, but a tired o soto movement was anticipated by the athlete from Tajikistan, who scored the waza ari by simply guiding his opponent backwards.

Georgia may have missed out on the bronze medal, but Grigalashvili was waiting in the wings, ready to defend his title against Timur ARBUZOV (AIN). The 20 year-old Arbuzov had already slayed the top seed Matthias CASSE (BEL) in the earlier rounds, and now he was looking for the number two, and to steal the red back patch.

It was an acrobatic final to say the very least, and with 15 seconds left on the clock, Grigalashvili returned to the tatami following a second medical intervention, and immediately decided the world title fate by scoring with ura nage. With this third title, Grigalashvili goes in to the Georgian history books! This is only his second competition of the year, and after a European and World title win, all that is left is the Olympics.

Ura nage for the win! © Gabi Juan


Author: Thea Cowen