Daria Bilodid: the role model of all cadet world champions
Obviously everyone knows the story of Daria Bilodid, the current double senior World Champion won the cadet world title in 2015 in Sarajevo. In the previous World Championships Min-Jong Kim (KOR) became cadet world champion in Chile and he finished with bronze at the last senior World Championships in Tokyo. There are countless examples of successful transitions from cadet to senior level, but it's not an ABC.
Lasha Bekauri (GEO) is doing really well in the junior and senior category nowadays. In 2017 he was cadet World champion and, a year later, repeated at the junior level. In Tashkent, his first event among the elite, Bekauri already had the minimum experience necessary to measure himself to the crème de la crème of judo. He finished fifth, very close to the medals. His first result, which inspires a lot of confidence for the future, would not have been possible without his passing through international tournaments in the lower categories. Mihrac Akkus (TUR) is another example who won bronze in the IJF World Tour this year in Antalya.
Naohisa Takato (JPN) is a triple World Champion who won the cadet world title in the first edition in Budapest in 2009. Sarah Asahina (JPN) is double world champion for Japan after winning in Kiev in 2011. Ami Kondo and Guram Tushishvili are former world champions in both cadet and seniors and Marie Eve Gahie and Akira Sone became senior world champion in Tokyo. It took them 4-6 years to strike with their second career world title. Things can go fast if you’re good.
There are more examples though of athletes who didn’t make it at senior level. More than 10 former Japanese Cadet World Championships never won a significant medal at senior, not even at junior level. Even Russia had numbers of world champion without a medal yet in the seniors or world junior championships. The talent is there but the circumstance in and outside judo make it hard to become a successful judoka, a professional. Also the German team collected five Cadet World Champions but none of them yet took a medal at Junior World level.
You don’t need to be a cadet world champion to reach the ultimate top level. Italy’s Ody Giuffrida took silver at the world’s in 2009 and in 2016 she was in the Olympic Games final. Hifumi Abe lost the world cadet final in 2013 and captured three World Championships medals. He lost to Koba Mchedlishvili who’s still trying to get a foot on the ground in his current class, this is the reality.