15 May 2024


World Championships Seniors (Individual+Teams)


Day three of the Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024 will be unmissable. Some of the biggest names in judo will be competing in the -81kg and -63kg categories, with both defending champions present to ensure they keep the red back patch.

Once again, there is potential for a clash of the titans; Matthias CASSE (BEL) and TATO GRIGALASHVILI (GEO). The top two world ranked athletes in the -81kg category have only ever challenged one another in major championships, with the last occasion being the World Championships 2023, where Grigalashvili became the victor. After securing the European title a few weeks ago in Zagreb, the Georgian superstar has been preparing for the World Championships in Abu Dhabi, as has Casse, the Tashkent and Paris Grand Slam winner this year. The only other European representative in the top eight is Zelim TCKAEV (AZE) who joined Casse on the podiums of Paris and Tokyo.

Matthias CASSE (BEL) and Zelim TCKAEV (AZE) © Gabi Juan

Nevertheless, the talent doesn’t end within the seeded positions with the likes of double European Champion, Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR) sitting just outside, along with Antonio ESPOSITO (ITA). Frank DE WIT (NED) seems to be in the swing of things, finding himself in the final of the European Championships against Grigalashvili after a strong performance. After a recent change, there will only be one Borchashvili competing in the -81kg category this week, the younger brother Wachid of Austria, who took silver in Dushanbe. Alpha Oumar DJALO (FRA) is a huge threat in this weight, and despite not sitting in a qualification position, as he is from the host nation, he has an automatic entry to Paris.

The third day of competition will also play host to the women’s -63kg category. With Paris already on everyone’s minds, they will be looking to the defending World Champion (six-time to be exact), Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) who rounds out the top eight seeds. Her legendary status has been well-earned, and her comeback after starting a family to head in to the Olympic Games at home is greatly celebrated. That being said, she has some tough competition in the way of yet another world title.

Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) © Gabi Juan

Leading the group are ne waza specialist, Catherine BEAUCHEMIN-PINARD (CAN) and Katharina HAECKER (AUS), but the rest is a European stronghold.

Laura FAZLIU is continuing the tradition of female strength from Kosovo, a nation who will be qualifying women in three categories for the upcoming Games, no easy feat for small nations, and two of which are defending Olympic Champions! Fazliu is followed by Gili SHARIR (ISR), Joanne VAN LIESHOUT (NED), Andreja LESKI (SLO) and Angelica SZYMANSKA (POL). All have acquired major results in the past 12 months, securing their top places coming in to these World Championships.

Andreja LESKI (SLO) © Gabi Juan

Just outside however are top contenders who can cause major upset. Lucy RENSHALL (GBR) stepped back from the European Championships and following events to tend to a niggling injury before Abu Dhabi, whereas Lubjana PIOVESANA (AUT) has been sweeping up medals, and a second Grand Slam gold in Dushanbe. There is still the double threat from Croatia; Katarina KRISTO and Iva OBERAN, and though Kristo widened the gap with a Grand Slam win in Kazakhstan, if Oberan were to medal in Abu Dhabi, the tables could very well turn again.

There is naturally a lot of pressure on the athletes during a major event such as this, but it is multiplied now, for many looking to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games, and some still in national rivalries.


Author: Thea Cowen