The past five years, and beyond, the -66kg category was dominated by Japanese judoka. The top couple, ABE Hifumi and MARUYAMA Joshiro, will arrive to Doha to dare the rest of the 51 judoka to challenge them. Europe has the upper hand when looking at the list of seeded players. Can quantity overcome the upper-class? On the second day of the World Judo Championships 2023, we shall see.
Europe’s biggest hopes undoubtedly lay in the hands of Denis VIERU (MDA), who besides being world #1 and consistent in performance, he was also able to squeeze in for the podium family photo at last years’ world championships as the only European judoka. The second closest call was from Elios MANZI (ITA) and Vazha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO) whom respectively finished with 5th places. The latter lost against Vieru for bronze. Forced to bow out a round before that were also two European judoka, Masters 2022 gold medallist, Baruch SHMAILOV (ISR) and 2022 European Champion, Bogdan IADOV (UKR). All four judoka are capable of striving through the crowd.
Manzi of Italy might have to take a slightly tougher route to the final block as he joins the show unseeded. Whilst former double world medallist of the -60kg category, Orkhan SAFAROV (AZE) just made it to the top 8 seed, Walide KHYAR (FRA) is listed right below him, meaning possible early morning sizeable challenges. Europe has an in-depth list of judoka to gain the world title in Doha. Really and truly, the only question is if they will have what it takes to overcome the powerhouse Japanese duet.
Author: Szandra Szogedi