The -73kg category isn’t just a general rivalry, but it is made up by national ones too, albeit it among friends.
In the last Olympic cycle, Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) attempted to qualify in the -81kg category, but has since learned that his strength lies at -73kg. Instead it was his more senior team mate Rustam ORUJOV who took the place in Tokyo, and now Heydarov has soared past him with a hat-trick of successes this year, including two grand slam golds and a European title.
At the top of the pile sits Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO), still the only of his countrymen to obtain a world, European and Olympic title and for this event hopes to hold on to the red back patch.
Europe can also boast Tohar BUTBUL (ISR) and Victor STERPU (MDA) in the seeding, but looking outside we must still anticipate that anything can happen. This is a world championships after all. In this event, without ranking we have Abdul Malik UMAYEV (BEL) who after succeeding on the European circuit, moved on to secure a grand slam medal in Antalya, definitely one to watch.
As for the -57kg women, Canada’s Jessica KLIMKAIT leads the charge and will also be hoping to retain her world title from 2021, though her more than capable team mate is lying outside the top eight which could prove a major threat. Chasing Klimkait however is Timna NELSON LEVY (ISR), Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE (FRA) and Eteri LIPARTELIANI (GEO) in the top four alone.
Nelson Levy has been extremely busy this year, and had been collecting medal after medal on the IJF tour – four to be exact -, as well as swiping her first senior European title in Sofia, but perhaps was running out of steam in Zagreb, missing out on a medal. There has been plenty of time to recover and given her run up, things are looking good.
Interestingly we will also be looking to the newer recruits of this category, including Daria BILODID (UKR) and welcoming back 2020 European champion, KARAKAS Hedvig (HUN) following he brief stint in the -63kg category.
Author: Thea Cowen