This week the IJF announced that the categories U55kg and U44kg will be cancelled in all competitions, effective at the first Junior European Cup in St. Petersburg. Sports Dietician Amelie Rosseneu advices some points to consider.
The main question in this discussion is whether most of these lightweights are really naturally that light or if their weight is kept down on purpose? Weight cutting happens in most weight categories and stages, but doing these practices while athletes are still not fully developed should be avoided as much as possible. Sometimes athletes need to be protected from themselves and if there is truly a concern that young judo players are being kept in too low weights for a too long time, canceling these weights all together will be the right thing to do.
I understand the logic around it but let’s not forget that weight is not a measurement for maturity. There are athletes in heavier weights that are also still growing, so why are we not concerned with them cutting too much weight as well? So far I haven’t seen any indication that removing the lighter weight categories in juniors will have a positive effect on weight cutting patterns.
Champions without a weight category
Last years in the European Championships for Cadets 3 out of 4 medalists in the U50kg category were at their last year of Cadets. This means that all of them, including European Cadet Champion Iznaur Saaev from Russia, will now have to compete U60kg in juniors against opponents that are possibly 20% heavier than them.
While there are relatively a lot of last year Cadets competing in U50kg, there are far less in the lightest weight category for women, U40kg. This phenomenon can be easily explained by the fact that girls go through puberty earlier than boys and generally finish their growth spurt by the age of 16 years. Boys only finish their growth spurt around the age of 18 years. Meaning girls get 2 years to catch up with a possible delay in maturity but boys don’t get this privilege.
Only future will tell if this decision was the right one to make. If you would ask me, I’d recommend not to cancel U55kg weight category for men. There are barely any last year Cadets fighting U40kg, so the step U44kg to U48kg is much smaller. For men, who experience their growth spurt later than women, this is a different story and as we can see in the participant lists of junior competitions there are a lot more athletes competing.
The first competition for juniors is less than 3 weeks from now, and I’m curious to know how many of the U44kg and U55kg athletes will decide to compete. I wish all lightweight athletes easy transition and good luck!
Check the website of Amelie Rosseneu for more diet tips for top athletes.