We can look back at past world champions, many former looking to take back their prior titles, but for many on the entry list, this is their first time taking a chance at world championship success.
As expected there are some young contenders but there are also some more senior athletes who either haven’t had the best luck in qualifying in the past or were part of strong teams and didn’t get their time to shine.
One of those is Ukraine’s Yuliia HREBENOZHKO. The 27 year-old has been battling on the European circuit for many years in the -63kg category yet not achieving the success she trains so hard for. This year however, things began to look up for her and she managed to secure her place by qualifying in the top 100 for Doha, sitting at #94 in the ranking list. Hrebenozhko took an emotional win in the Warsaw European Open, admittedly winning with ease it seemed, but for all the hard work, she finally had something to show for it.
In an interview with Hrebenozhko, she confessed that belief in herself had held her back in some respect but the faith instilled by her coach and parents encouraged her to continue in this bid for glory. Though she may have fallen short on the judo circuit before, the Ukrainian athlete is already a world title holder, but in Sambo, taking the gold medal in Tashkent 2021.
One athlete who is a little less of a surprise is the recent Tbilisi Grand Slam winner, Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE). Now the team of Azerbaijan is always churning out new talent across all weight categories, but despite his achievements, he is not the number one in the -60kg, following world ranked #2 Balabay AGHAYEV. The difference isn’t so great anymore though, and Bayramov is just outside of the seeding in the world championships.
It is his debut in the senior world championships but already he has secured a silver at junior level. Interestingly he is being pulled up alongside Giorgi SARDALASHVILI (GEO), the pair fought In the junior world final and in the Tbilisi Grand Slam for gold, both will be in Doha and we can be sure this will be a career rivalry.
Austria’s newest addition, Lubjana PIOVESANA previously competed for the team of Great Britain but didn’t get the opportunity for qualification with more senior athletes ahead of her. The junior world bronze medallist had acquired medals on the IJF tour, and an IJF Masters 7th place when part of the Team GB but now she is performing for her new home, taking place in the final block of the Antalya Grand Slam and finishing 5th. The 26 year-old is very happy to finally be taking her place on the world stage in the -63kg category.
Gennaro PIRELLI (ITA) surprised the IJF World Tour last year, marking his position by taking the bronze in the Baku Grand Slam and then the gold medal in Tokyo. At only 22 years-old, he has already made a great impression, but this will be his first opportunity in a senior world championships to take down the front runners. It mustn’t phase him too much following his destruction of the Japanese team, including the current Olympic champion, WOLF Aaron.
There are many athletes on the entry list that are debuting in their first world championships and the EJU look forward to seeing these exciting performances and if there are any surprises from the ‘new blood’.
Author: Thea Cowen