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Majlinda Kelmendi facing the pressure of regaining the title: World preview U52kg

29 Aug 2017 00:00

 by JudoInside and JudoCrazy    IJF Media Team / International Judo Federation

Since winning her first World title in 2013, Majlinda Kelmendi has been defeated only once in an individual tournament. That loss was to Erika Miranda of Brazil in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, just two months after Kelmendi's return to competition after a very long injury layoff. The unfortunate draw brought the Olympic medallists together in one pool.

This time the Kosovar Olympic Champion and European Champion will try to regain her 2014 title and will be the first seeded athlete. However, she is not administered correctly in judobase as non-seeded, which triggers many questions. In advance of the World Championships at the IJF gala on Saturday, she is the number one candidate to be elected as "best athlete" over the 2012-2016 Olympic cycle. Kelmendi is a prominent figure and it’s time she is shown first seeded on the official lists.

Kelmendi is so dominant in this category that everyone else is considered an outsider for the title. Erika Miranda has another opinion, though. She was the last one to beat Kelmendi in 2015 in Abu Dhabi. Both trained together for a few days in Slovenia and are good and respected friends. Kelmendi herself has said that Natalia Kuziutina of Russia is one of her toughest rivals. Perhaps she says this because early in her career, in 2010, Kelmendi lost twice to this Russian. Since then they have fought three more times and all three went to Kelmendi. Kuziutina drops out of the seeding list as 9th athlete and is definitely among the game changers for the quarter finals.

Kelmendi has never faced Ai Shishime of Japan, a dangerous opponent seeded as fourth. She is likely linked to the second Kosovo athlete, Distria Krasniqi, another candidate for a medal. In Budapest, another Japanese representative will be Natsumi Tsunoda, the winner of the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam. She has shown great potential and has beaten Miranda, as well as Krasniqi, although she lost to Kelmendi at the 2017 Paris Grand Slam.

French Amandine Buchard has showed very good judo against Kelmendi and was close to a sensational upset, but eventually lost, as well. Buchard may be the first big opponent for Kelmendi in the quarter finals unless the non-seeded player spoils the show for some of the favourites.

Quarter finals could be:

Majlinda Kelmendi vs Amandine Buchard

Erika Miranda vs Ecaterina Guica

Gili Cohen vs Distria Krasniqi

Larisa Florian vs Ai Shishime

Previous World Champions

1999      Noriko Narazaki (JPN)

2001      Sun Hui Kye (PRK)

2003      Amarilis Savón (CUB)

2005      Li Ying (CHN)

2007      Junjie Shi (CHN)

2009      Misato Nakamura (JPN)

2010      Yuka Nishida (JPN)

2011      Misato Nakamura (JPN)

2013      Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)

2014      Majlinda Kelmendi (IJF)

2015      Misato Nakamura (JPN)

The Game Changers

Unseeded Italian Odette Giuffrida is perhaps one of the most dangerous candidates. The runner-up of the Olympic Games in Rio was fifth at the 2015 World Championships in Astana. She took a bronze medal at the Grand Prix in Cancun in 2017 after a fifth place at the European Championships. Sad but true either Kelmendi or Giuffrida will go out in the eighth final. Not just Odette Giuffrida but also Amandine Buchard, Joana Ramos and Darya Skrypnik are in that same pool.

Charline van Snick of Belgium is Olympic Games bronze medallist in 2012, 2013 World bronze medallist, and 2015 European Games winner after two lost European finals. In her new category she hasn't yet been impressive. The same goes for 2012 Olympic Champion Sarah Menezes of Brazil.

More is expected from Natalia Kuziutina, who won bronze at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 U52kg. She is a triple European Champion who won six European medals. Kuziutina won two World medals, 2010 and 2014. She was 7th in 2015 in Astana. She also won bronze at the Grand Slams in Paris and Ekaterinburg in 2017.

Check the Stats generator which country dominated U52kg over the years.

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Related Judo Photos

  • Erika Miranda (BRA) - World Championships Budapest (2017, HUN) - © IJF Media Team, International Judo Federation
  • Odette Giuffrida (ITA) - World Championships Budapest (2017, HUN) - © IJF Media Team, International Judo Federation

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