Shohei Ono of Japan is the absolute favourite for the Olympic title on 8 August. However, nothing is as it seems at Olympic level. Ono threw Riner at a training camp, but throwing his opponents in Rio may be tougher. In 2012, Russia won a second gold medal thanks to Mansur Isaev. With Isaev being unable to defend his title as he misses the Olympics, it’s about time that Ono takes credit of his reputation.
Ono is the current and double World Champion, having won titles in Astana in 2015 and Rio de Janeiro in 2013. His achievements date back to 2011, winning the World Junior Championships U20 in Cape Town. Ono has also won consecutively at the Grand Prix Dusseldorf in 2015 and 2016.
Korean An Chang-Rim won bronze at the 2015 World Championships. He was also World Junior Champion in Miami in 2014. His win at the Grand Slam Paris in 2016 led him to become World number one. He added the Universiade in Gwangju, Korea, and the Grand Slam Abu Dhabi to his successes in 2015. An has Japanese roots and his parents live in Kyoto.
Another fighter in shape is 2016 European champion Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan. His extensive list of wins includes the Grand Prix Havana in 2016, Grand Prix in Baku 2012 and 2013, and Grand Prix Tbilisi and Samsun, both in 2015. He also won silver in Paris and Düsseldorf in 2016. Orujov was born in Ust-Ilimsk, Russia.
Sagi Muki is the second male European champion for his nation after Ariel Zeevi's quadruple wins. The lightweight won various international tournaments and is one of the best fighters for Israel. He was the best-placed European lightweight at the 2015 World Championships by finishing seventh place. He was also bronze medalist at the Grand Slam Paris in 2016.
Lasha Shavdatuashvili is one of the youngest Olympic Champions ever. The Georgian judoka won the half-lightweight Olympic title in London. He also won European bronze in 2012 and the European title in 2013. Raising his weight to compete in the U73kg, he has won medals in Düsseldorf and Tbilisi, as well as a gold at the Grand Prix Almaty. He won an amazing battle with teammate Nugzari Tatalashvili.
Russian judoka Denis Iartcev won a silver medal at the Grand Slam Paris in 2016. Iartcev also won the Universiade in Shenzhen in 2011 and a European Games bronze in 2015. He was the IJF World Masters winner in Rabat in 2015. With these tournament wins, he is the number one lightweight for Russia.
Odbayar Ganbaatar from Mongolia has won 10 World Cup medals since 2010, including bronze in Havana in 2016. Finishing fifth at the 2015 World Championships, Ganbaatar won 5 medals in Ulaanbaatar, and the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, Qingdao and Tbilisi. Ganbaatar also won medals at Asian Championships in 2015 and earned an Asian Games silver in 2014.
Dex Elmont was European Champion in 2014 and has won 5 World Championships medals. With only Olympic gold missing, he participated in two Olympic Games, and was 5th in Beijing and locked out of medals in London. Having competed in U66kg and U73kg division, he is also the younger brother of former world champion Guillaume Elmont. Is this his last trick in Rio? He was close in London, but that doesn’t count.
Rok Draksic is a former World leader in the U73kg from Slovenia. He won the European title in 2013 and six European medals in 7 years, as well as the ECCO Hero Challenge as a half-lightweight in 2012. A former World Police Champion, he has won seven World Cups and the Grand Prix Budapest in 2016. These wins give him reason to be confident.
Victor Scvortov was born in Moldova. With his team, he moved to the United Arab Emirates where he became very successful. He won a World Championships medal in 2014, and was the first judoka from the UAE to do so. Scvortov won the Grand Prix Abu Dhabi and Budapest in the same year and won his first medal in 2016 with a silver in Havana.
Miklós Ungvári is the half-lightweight silver medallist at the 2012 Olympic Games. He won three World Championships bronze medals in 2005, 2007 and 2009, as well as three European titles in 2002, 2009 and 2011. Still considered world class, he continues winning major international events as Ungvári knows when he needs to peak. Although not having done so this year, it is possible that he would in Rio. He has 4 sisters and 4 brothers (Attila, Zoltan, Miklós are judokas).
Seeded athletes paired
An (Van Tichelt) with Iartcev (Duprat)
Shavdatuashvili with Ono
Orujov with Sharipov (Ungvari/Elmont)
Muki (Draksic/Wandtke) with Ganbaatar
Previous Olympic Champions
Mansur Isaev (RUS)
Elnur Mammadli (AZE)
Won-Hee Lee (KOR)
Giuseppe Maddaloni (ITA)
The categories of U66kg and U73kg were the most fluctuating division with both having nine different leaders in the World Rankings, and are currently led by An Chang-Rim. Many judokas were world ranking leaders in this Olympic cycle: Nyam-Ochir Sainjargal, Rustam Orujov, Dex Elmont, An Chang-Rim, Wang Ki-Chun, Riki Nakaya, Victor Scvortov, Dirk Van Tichelt, Rok Draksic (order by number of weeks).