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What to do with 13 nominated Japanese athletes for the Games?

11 May 2020 09:50

 Kyodo News    IJF Marina Mayorova / International Judo Federation

Following the postponement of the Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic, Japan's judo governing body faces a difficult decision on athlete selection for the rescheduled Tokyo Games.

Some members of the judo establishment want to stick with the athletes who had already qualified before the postponement, while others believe Japan's medal ambitions will be better served with new selection trials closer to the games in summer 2021.

The All Japan Judo Federation is expected to determine its policy at an extraordinary meeting of executives on Friday. While expectations for Japanese judo domination are a constant, the federation faces additional pressure to deliver results on home soil.

According to one executive, many voices within the federation are calling for existing qualification to be carried over as the most practical option.

With no clear timeline for the resumption of international competition amid the coronavirus crisis, there is a belief that there may be too many unknowns to chart a new path for qualification.

All but one of Japan's 13 representative slots have been filled under the original Olympic timeline, with only the men's U66kg category yet to be determined.

That berth had been whittled down to two candidates, reigning world champion Joshiro Maruyama and former world champion Hifumi Abe, who were set for a winner-take-all bout at the All-Japan Weight Class Championships last month, prior to its postponement.

For the 2020 Olympics, the federation introduced a new three-step selection process, based around performances at major competitions, which had been intended to give selected athletes ample time to prepare for the Olympics.

Soon after the International Olympic Committee announced the postponement of the Tokyo Games on March 24, several athletes reportedly urged the federation to clarify its selection policy.

Judgement on the matter had been expected at an executive meeting on April 15, but before it could take place, the federation was hit with an outbreak of the pneumonia-causing coronavirus at its Tokyo headquarters.

According to the AJJF, of 19 people working at the federation's office in the capital's Bunkyo Ward who were tested, 16 were found to be infected with the virus.

The decision on Olympic selection is now expected to be reached at Friday's extraordinary meeting before being made official at a board meeting next month.

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