19 May 2024


World Championships Seniors (Individual+Teams)


As we expect, the World Championships always delivers extraordinary surprises, those at the top and with expectations weighing them down can become undone by the most unlikely of opponents. The first in the World Judo Championships Abu Dhabi 2024 was the -60kg Salih YILDIZ (TUR), taken completely by surprise in his opening contest against James ZAHRA (MLT) who secured the win quickly with juji gatame.

This categrory continued to deliver huge surprises, including the dismissal of the defending World Champion and three-time European Champion, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP). There was an early disqualification of Balabay AGHAYEV (AZE) as his team mate Turan BAYRAMOV went to the repechage following his defeat at the hands of Giorgi SARDALASHVILI (GEO). With the Georgian world bronze medallist on one side of the draw, we had neutral athlete and Antalya Grand Slam winner, Ayub BLIEV on the other. Bliev was certainly on a roll in the preliminaries, taking out Japan’s Olympic hope for a lightweight medal, NAGAYAMA Ryuju (JPN).

Current Olympic silver medallist, YANG Yung Wei (TPE), for a second consecutive match, managed a win as his opponent was disqualified for throwing against the elbow, devastating Bliev who had been on such an incredible run. This left the decision open, who would see Yang in the final?

Giorgi SARDALASHVILI (GEO) © Gabi Juan

After his bronze medal success in 2023, Sardalashvili had a new hunger. This was evident in the semi final against NAKAMURA Taiki (JPN). It was an intelligent contest fought by both, and with very experienced coaches in their chairs; Lasha GUJEJIANI and EBINUMA Masashi, it was a game of chess. In the end however, there needed to be a winner and a hard-fought sumi gaeshi was the answer, earning Sardalashvili the waza ari score.

Assunta SCUTTO (ITA) always delivers an emotional performance, each step to success is meaningful, but today was something special. After a run of many wins, Scutto had fallen to the wayside slightly, but the WRL #1 made up for it all today. Steaming through her side of the draw, she met with rising star, Tara BABULFATH (SWE) in the semi final. Scutto added a score to the board early on with a signature sode drop tsuri komi goshi and Babulfath did her best to play catch up. There was a close call as the Swedish athlete secured the osaekomi and had the Italian delegation on their feet in support of their athlete, who incredibly managed to escape before the waza ari scored. A definite place in the final for Scutto and Team Italy.

Assunta SCUTTO (ITA) © Gabi Juan

There is one last hurdle, BAVUUDORJ Baasankhuu (MGL). It was a tremendous semi final between herself and Abiba ABUZHAKYNOVA (KAZ), an initial ippon score for Bavuudorj, reduced to waza ari, then only moments later, she took the win with a colossal ura nage.

Last year, both Amandine BUCHARD (FRA) and Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) stood side by side on the -52kg podium earning bronze medals in 2023, but today, the semi final decided which one would potentially see the gold. The pair know each other so well that this would inevitably become a golden score endeavour.

Both have preference for ‘dropping’ techniques, whether it be a seoi nage or kata guruma movement, but today it did not serve Buchard in the way she had hoped, picking up a third shido for a false attack. This was in fact an incredible turn around as originally the third shido was awarded to Giuffrida for passivity until the decision was reversed. Before today, the two Olympic silver medallists have only ever reached bronze level at this event, but now Giuffrida has bested her previous results and will secure silver at the very least. This win added a score to the 4-0 win ratio in favour of Buchard today, now sitting at 4-1.

Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) © Gabi Juan

Though celebrations could have been had, the day is not over for the Italian athlete who will face the top seed, and 2023 world silver medallist Diroya KELDIYOROVA (UZB) in the -52kg final. The Uzbekistan athlete has been a gem in the crown of this category and will endeavour to improve on last years results, making for a dynamic final, and a second potential gold medal for Team Italy.


Author: Thea Cowen