Once again Europe have the lions share of the seeding positions on day six of the Olympic Games 2021 with ten athletes earning the sought-after positions.
In the women’s -78kg category, Madeleine MALONGA (FRA) has kept a tight grasp on her number one spot despite losing out in the most recent world championships final. Though she wasn’t able to keep her red back patch she was happy with her performance and is looking only to Tokyo.
Swiping the title instead was Anna Maria WAGNER (GER) who was able to make a significant jump the in the ranking list with this result. The German athlete had been on a winning streak taking gold medals in both the Tel Aviv and Kazan Grand Slam this year.
It won’t be an easy ride in the -78kg category, again mentioning that there are five in the seeding including Gussje STEENHUIS (NED), Natalie POWELL (GBR) and Loriana KUKA (KOS), all women are capable of taking medals in Tokyo.
The threat of course doesn’t end there, as beyond the seeding we have 2018 world bronze medallist, Aleksandra BABINTSEVA (ROC) as well as the current European champion, Beata PACUT (POL). Though Malonga has lead the pack for some time and the expectation is high for her, this is still an open category and predictions could be sorely misplaced.
The exact same thing could be said for the -100kg category.
As a community with a tremendous amount of respect for our gracious judoka, there are many in the corner of the number one seed, Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO). As the favourite in London 2012 he made an early exit but rose to the occasion in Rio de Janeiro to take silver. Since then, his major championship runs haven’t seen him exceed silver accomplishments, but there will be plenty eager for him to find a way past this second place blockade and see him on top of the podium.
He will need to pass many strong opponents in order to do this though, including 2019 and 2021 world champion, Jorge FONSECA (POR). His style is incredibly fast for the -100kg category with devastating results for his opponents. As the number two seed there will be high hopes for the Portuguese.
Joining the top two are Michael KORREL (NED), Peter PALTCHIK (ISR) and Niyaz ILIASOV (ROC). Perhaps for the latter he is still riding on the high of being selected for these games as it was looking like a close call between himself and Arman ADAMIAN. This is time to prove that he was indeed the right decision and can take on the very best.
In the 25-strong category, there aren’t any walkovers and outside of the top eight, it is an incredibly tough fight which means some of the first contests will look like they could very well be medal deciders.
One in particular we need to be watching is the 2021 world silver medallist, Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB). Previously in the -90kg category, the 2017 European champion realised his only way to the Olympics would be in another weight, however the move looked a little risky, already so late in the game. Looking at the ranking points, many watching the world championships knew he needed to be on the podium in order to make his dream a reality and after some rocky months, his will exceeded everything else and he fought his way to the final, taking a world silver and his first medal in the -100kg category on the IJF circuit.
Author: Thea Cowen