There are always surprises to be had at any major championships, and Budapest certainly delivered its fair share on day one of the World Judo Championships 2021, setting the standard for some potential Olympic head to heads.
With only one weight category for men and women per day, we can focus on each and every contest and certainly one of the most impressive was in the -60kg category with Karamat HUSEYNOV (AZE) and NAGAYAMA Ryuju (JPN). The latter having already achieved World status as a junior has claimed two senior bronze medals and would have been hoping to surpass his previous standard today as the number one seed, but the young Azeri wouldn’t let it happen.
An earlier earned waza ari created an exciting atmosphere with many holding their breath, wondering if he could take his Japanese opponent the full length of the contest without giving him the opportunity to score. He did just that and made his way to the quarter final. Perhaps due to the prospect of Olympic certainty, his took his eye off todays prize and lost in the quarter final to former European champion of France, Walide KHYAR who knowingly pressures his opponents relentlessly. Despite Huseynov being ahead in scores, he was unable to handle the contest tactics and found himself in the repechage and then in the first bronze medal contest of the -60kg category where he stole the show in golden score and took his first world medal.
It was a tough semi final for Khyar, who was originally given a place in the final due to shido accumulation by his opponent, but the decision was reversed and his Kazakh contender sent the French to the bronze contest against ne waza king and current European champion, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP).
Another quarter final gone wrong saw Garrigos climb back up through the repechage to meet Khyar for the second bronze medal which eventually went to the Spaniard. Though Khyra’s opponents clearly struggled with the contest tactics, Garrigos was completely in control and there was little doubt which way the result would go. With 2021 shaping up to be a year of glory for the 26 year-old, it isn’t unreasonable to predict Tokyo success.
The player of the day and certainly for Europe was Yago ABULADZE (RJF), his seamless ascent to the top was not unusual behaviour for the young representative of the Russian Judo Federation but his hunger for this title seemed unparalleled. Only one of his contests was not won by ippon, the quarter final against Yanislav GERCHEV (BUL) was very high energy and tense within the stands, a wavering moment for the Russian. However his ne waza skills trumped his other opponents in the preliminaries but it was his tachi waza that eared him the the 2021 world title in only a minute and a half. With his father contributing to the celebrations in the stands, this was easily the loudest reaction of the day.
We may have been deprived of a European finalist, the -48kg women were incredible and opened the competition setting a high standard for the rest to follow.
Julia FIGUEROA (ESP) has been in an unfortunate situation, competing not only against the rest of the world in the run up to the Olympic Games, but also finding herself in a national head to head with her younger team mate Laura MARTINEZ ABELENDA. The latter had a bit of catching up to do in terms of points but it wasn’t to be. However, given that she is only 22 years old we can be sure to see her back in the next cycle. 32 year-old Figueroa has fought hard for this place and today took her first world medal, on the eve of the Olympic Games.
It wasn’t an easy road to the final block for Figueroa however, coming up against the French Olympic selection and 2020 European champion, Shrine BOUKLI. A very smooth waza ari score was taken to make it a Spanish lead and Boukli was simply unable to find a way in to even the contest.
Julia FIGEUROA (ESP) defeats 2020 European champion Shrine BOUKLI (FRA).
A win and a bronze medal for Julia FIGUEROA (ESP).
Leading at the top of the draw was 2019 World bronze medallist, Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) who in a turn of events ended up having two bye rounds, winning a single contest against Sabina GILIAZOVA (RJF) to see her in to the quarter final with Martinez. It was a strong performance from Krasniqi which put her in the opposite semi final to Figueroa, both women facing Japanese opponents; TSUNODA Natsumi and KOGA Wakana. It was the Japanese who made it to the final and the European hopefuls to the bronze medal contests.
Though Krasniqi was unable to make this her second world bronze success, Figueroa was not letting this opportunity pass and scored waza ari against the young Argentinian Keisy PERAFAN before working her way in to osaekomi to finish the contest and take her first world medal.
Author: Thea Cowen