PREVIEW: Spanish lightweights battle it out in Budapest
The lightweights traditionally start at the first day of the judo World Championships, same for the IJF blockbuster in Budapest between 6th and 13th June. The athletes get another opportunity to take precious points and in the lightweight division for women U48kg nothing is yet decided for the qualification for the Games.
Budapest will be the theatre of an all-out battle between compatriots seeking to qualify for Tokyo. We already know that two of the first four in the world ranking will be present and will be favourites, both in Hungary and in Japan. This is Distria Krasniqi (KOS) and Munkhbat Urantsetseg (MGL).
We should keep our eyes on Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh (KAZ) too, the Olympic bronze medallist in Rio, always surprising judo fans with magnificent Ura-nage throws. What about the Serbians; have they made their choice already? Only Milica Nikolic is fighting in Budapest. What we also do not know is who the Spanish representative will be in Tokyo. That will depend on what happens in Budapest.
Julia Figueroa is currently the world number six. She has not had it easy because, in an atypical and shorter season than usual, she has suffered from tough and constant competition from Laura Martínez, twelfth in the ranking. In December Martínez even went ahead! Both have had to participate in each and every one of the World Judo Tour events since November. Besides being better than their other rivals, they had to watch what the other was doing constantly, to try to do better and score more points. They even faced each other directly and the last time that happened, Figueroa won.
It was a short but strenuous race, the final chapter of which will take place in Budapest. For the moment, Figueroa has a comfortable advantage, but since judo is not an exact science, if Martinez won the world title, Figueroa's Olympic dream would remain just that, a dream.