Though the lighter of the men’s weight categories are historically Asia-dominant, the playing field appears too start levelling out as we veer in to the -73kg category. Fan-favourite and arguably the most experienced in this weight is Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO), the only athlete from his nation to complete the title collection of continental, world and Olympic Games.
He may be in the number one position but anything can happen here. Shavdatuashvili earned his Olympic title at -66kg and he is joined by another former -66kg athlete and super contender, Daniel CARGNIN (BRA) who immediately after the Olympic Games in Tokyo was medalling in world championships and even took the IJF Masters title in December, surprising the Georgian on both occasions before he found his win against the Brazilian in Paris.
The -73kg category has been watching the national battle between Hidayat HEYDAROV and Rustam ORUJOV of Azerbaijan for some years now but now the younger of the two, Heydarov, has cemented himself as the leader and comes to Doha as the number two seed followed by the current world champion TSEND-OCHIR Tsogtbaatar (MGL). There is still Asian influence in the top eight with a double entry form Uzbekistan; Murodjon YULDOSHEV and Obidkhon NOMONOV.
Since his recent win in Antalya, Manuel LOMBARDO (ITA) has bumped himself up six places and now ranks number seven in the world, which also aligns with the seeding as we aren’t missing anyone in this category.
What can be said is that there is tremendous threat just outside the seeding positions with the likes of world champion and double silver medallist, HASHIMOTO Soichi (JPN) and some Europeans who have been rocking the boat recently; Nils STUMP (SUI) and Salvador CASES ROCA (ESP).
Looking through the entry, we can confidently say there are no weak athletes and that anyone, on their day, is capable of achieving greatness but some notable names include Makhmadbek MAKHMADBEKOV (AIN), winner of the Ulaanbaatar, Baku and Kazan grand slams defeating the likes of Heydarov and Tsend-Ochir.
Author: Thea Cowen