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Who are the ones to watch for the World Championships in Tokyo

18 Jul 2019 16:20

 by Ashley Munson    Paco Lozano / Judo y Otros

In a little over a months’ time the world will focus its attention on Tokyo as the World Championships get underway. Judo returns to its homeland and with the 2020 Olympic Games ahead to be held in Tokyo, it will have viewers gripped throughout. We can’t wait for this year’s blockbuster.

Judo is a physical contact sport, but on opposite to the way NFL lines move, it’s man against man and there’s no one who can take over compared to any team sport. It is just two athletes facing each other in the tatami. This is what judo makes so special. Even in the 2020 team event it’s an individual battle.

There are plenty of judo characters to follow but we propose a few of those stars to watch closely at the World Championships. Judoka that have attracted many followers to the sport of judo. Here we take a look at some of the candidates who we expect to shine.


Cuban born Ortiz has serious pedigree when it comes to the Olympics and an appearance at next year’s games will make it four on the spin. She competes in the 78kg category and has picked up a medal, one of each colour, in her three appearances to date – with the first coming aged just 18 in Beijing, which made her the youngest heavyweight Olympic medallist.

Now at 29 she still has plenty in the tank and the medals she scooped last year – a World Championship silver in Baku and a Pan American gold – prove she'll be a tough one to stop in 2020.


Deguchi could well be in line to play the pantomime villain in Tokyo given her decision to switch allegiance away from the host nation to Canada in 2017 despite refusing the same offer five years earlier. Deguchi qualifies for Canada through her father and already has a spot in the Canadian record books after finishing third at Baku.

This means she became the first Canadian to win a World Championship medal in Judo. More recently she won gold at the 2019 Pan American games and she’ll be relishing the prospect of an Olympics appearance in Japan and World Championships in Tokyo this year


Sherazadishvili, 23, is a man who could cause an upset to the home crowd next year. He was born in Georgia where he bedded in his judo roots before gaining Spanish citizenship and he wrote his name into Spain’s sporting history books by becoming their first judo World Champion in Azerbaijan last year.

He’s no one hit wonder either as medals in the European Championships (bronze) and another triumph in the Mediterranean Games saw him complete an impressive 2018. 2020 will be his first taste of the Olympic Games and it would be little surprise to see him seize the opportunity. The first stop is Tokyo as the warm up for next year’s career changing event.


It wouldn’t feel like Judo without Riner who is as ‘big-time' as they come in the sport. He’s the only judoka who can boast 10 World Championship golds, one of which was won at Tokyo 2010 and his trophy cabinet also holds five gold medals from the European Championships.

Throw into that his consecutive golds from the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and it’s some medal haul – and we’ve only mentioned the gold ones. He also won bronze in the 2008 Olympic Games as well as a silver and bronze in the World Championships. Riner didn’t compete throughout last year but will be a shoo-in for 2020; he’ll be the man to beat as well. Whether he competes in Tokyo is still a mystery but our eyes are on him as he made a successful comeback in Montreal.


Judo clearly runs through the veins of Uta Abe’s family – just ask her sister, two time World Champ at 66kgs Hifumi – but Tokyo 2020 has the potential to be all about the youngest Abe. In 2016, aged just 15, she conquered the 52kg division in Dusseldorf making her the youngest ever to clinch an IJF Grand Prix and in 2018 she became a World Champion. A budding young talent like Abe and a passionate home crowd could well see her dominate the headlines.

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Related Judo Photos

  • Nikoloz Sherazadishvili (ESP) - World Championships Budapest (2017, HUN) - © Paco Lozano, Judo y Otros
  • Christa Deguchi (CAN) - World Championships Baku (2018, AZE) - © Paco Lozano, Judo y Otros
  • Idalys Ortiz (CUB) - World Championships Baku (2018, AZE) - © Paco Lozano, Judo y Otros

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