Over 800 athletes from 129 nations will be travelling from around the globe to compete for the title of World Champion. The best of the best will return to the world stage in an attempt to prove themselves, the few minutes on the tatami, a reflection of years of hard work and sacrifice.
This year the esteemed tournament will be hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan between the 20th and 27th of September in the National Gymnastics Arena. After last year’s tremendous premiere of the mixed teams event, we will see a repeat on the eighth and final day of competition.
Irina DOLGOVA (RUS) is number two seed for the 2018 World Judo Championships and one of Europe’s medal hopefuls.
In white, Daria BILODID (UKR) defeated current World Champion TONAKI Funa (JPN) earlier this year. Can she repeat her glory and finally break the curse on Europe in the -48kg category?
In blue, CSERNOVICZKI Eva (HUN) has been consistently medalling at the European Championships for over a decade. She won her one and only World bronze back in 2011 and will be eager to seek for success in Baku.
In blue, Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) last competed in the -48kg category back in 2014. She shone in the -53kg category, only recently deciding to step down to compete in the lightest weight category on the first day of the World Judo Championships 2018.
Hope for Bilodid to break the barrier
The -48kg category has denied Europe a gold medal at the World Championships for 27 years, France being the last country to hear their national anthem. With strong results over the past year, the next flag to be flying could be blue and yellow.
There is no question that all eyes will be on the Ukrainian beauty, Daria BILODID in the -48kg category. With a trail of titles and gold medals, she will step on to the tatami as confident in her judo as ever. BILODID’s mastered technique has ensured her success time and time again, but sadly did not see her step on the podium at the World Championships in Budapest last year, due to an early exit at the hands of bronze medallist Otgontsetseg GALBADRAKH (KAZ). At the 2018 Paris Grand Slam, we saw BILODID defeat the current World Champion, TONAKI Funa (JPN) on her journey to gold. Undoubtedly we will see this exciting young talent give her all on day one of the tournament, will the 17-year old carry on her golden streak and take the World title in Baku?
Irina DOLGOVA (RUS) will also be stepping on the mat to make up for a loss, only this one is more recent. Having to settle for the silver medal in the Zagreb Grand Prix, the European Champion narrowly lost to BILODID in the final. DOLGOVA also has her share of success including a gold in the Agadir Grand Prix 2018. World and Olympic bronze medallist CZERNOVICZKI Eva (HUN) has been on a steady incline this year, proving that she has what it takes to compete against the other top seeds. Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) has a long list of achievements, yet at a weight division above. Prior to Baku, the 22-year-old judoka had two opportunities in the -48kg category, at the Zagreb Grand Prix and at the Budapest Grand Prix, managing to snitch a bronze at the latter. Regardless of the fact that KRASNIQI will begin her day as an unseeded athlete, there is no doubt she has what it takes to be present in the final block.
2017 European Champion, Robert MSHVIDOBADZE (RUS) will arrive in Baku with a mission to reach the final as will team-mate and Olympic Champion, Beslan MUDRANOV (RUS).
In blue, Rio 2016 Olympic Champion, Beslan MUDRANOV (RUS) is amongst the unseed athletes heading to Azerbaijan. The outcome of the draw will be crucial for MUDRANOV as he could possibly meet any of the top seeds first round.
In blue, Orkhan SAFAROV (AZE) was the only European athlete on the podium of the -60kg category at last year’s World Championships, where he claimed silver. Can the home supporters push him through for gold this week?
In blue, World bronze medallist Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO) is also in a strong position to take a medal in Baku.
#5 seed, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP) has made an impact at the senior circle with several achievements. Is he ready to step into the top zone?
In white, Ashley MCKENZIE (GBR) won bronze at both, the Paris Grand Slam and at the European Championships this year. Camberley Judo Club’s lucky charm is ready to turn the unexpected into reality.
Home crowd to boost Safarov for gold
The men’s lightweight category, -60kg, faced the same fate last year with the gold going to another continent. Despite a quiet year, Orkhan SAFAROV (AZE) will take to the world stage on the first day of competition. The gold medal was just out of grasp at the World Championships last year, losing out to TAKATO Naohisa of Japan. Can the strength of the home crowd lift him to golden glory this time? Surpassing SAFAROV in the seedings are Robert MSHVIDOBADZE (RUS), Amiran PAPINASHVILI (GEO), Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP) and Ashley MCKENZIE (GBR).
MSHVIDOBADZE lost out on a gold medal earlier this year in the Dusseldorf Grand Slam to the number one seed, NAGAYAMA Ryuju (JPN). An early ura-nage earning NAGAYAMA a waza ari forced the Russian to settle for silver, this could be the opportunity to change the record against the Japanese athlete. The Russian team will come in strong, Olympic Champion, Beslan MUDRANOV joining the ranks to compete for gold.
Picking up some tough medals in the Tbilisi and Budapest Grand Prix tournaments this year, World bronze medallist PAPINASHVILI is in a strong position to take a medal in Baku. Though the Georgian defeated two other European hopefuls, GARRIGOS and MCKENZIE in previous contests, both athletes have made an impact on the senior circuit this year. Notably, Great Britain’s Ashley MCKENZIE taking the bronze in the Paris Grand Slam and European Championships. With an abundance of talent in this weight category, we expect the Baku World Championships to start with some tremendous judo.