If we focus on the U48kg category, with its endless range of styles and energies, we might have expected Krasniqi (KOS), Bilodid (UKR), Tonaki (JPN) to reach the final block, one way or another. Our expectations, though, are not gospel. They are built from history, from feeling and gut, from expertise and technical understanding, but we can’t account for the topsy-turvy year behind us, with its speed bumps in the conveyor belt of tried and tested champion-building.
How creative has judo been, all over the world, to bring its most successful judoka back together, beyond the restrictions and the removal of training partners, still with extraordinary skill, refined footwork and calloused gripping.
We can still distinguish between styles, seeing Bilodid’s customary, frightening top left hand, spanning what feels like the whole width of the contest area to engage with the shoulder of any opponent. We see the wholly recognisable two-sided power from Pareto (ARG), the unemotional, professional intelligence of Tonaki, with her exquisite tsugi-ashi. She is ever-determined to control the centre of the tatami, no matter where the tactics of others try to take her.
Judo’s innovation is not with new techniques or with fresh rule sets in Doha, it is its ability to adapt the preparation in order to achieve the existing objectives. Judo is innovative. Judo is dynamic. Judo is adaptable. Judoka are innovative, dynamic, adaptable and you can see it in the category U48kg.