In the U60kg category Naohisa Takato starts as the main favourite. He will have to deal with the enormous pressure he will have to endure, not so much because of his condition but because he is fighting at home. Takato would want to take the gold this time after taking bronze in Rio when Beslan Mudranov snatched the Olympic title in the final against Yeldos Smetov. Five years later the same names apply as favourites, but Russia has another medal candidate.
Robert Mshvidobadze is 31 years old and over the past ten years he has built an impressive collection of titles. However, his trophy room is missing an Olympic medal. As for the legacy, Mshvidobadze is the heir to Galstyan and Mudranov, Olympic champions in London and Rio. The lightest category of men's judo has spoken Russian for nine years and Mshvidobadze does not want to hand over the keys to the pantheon that covers the Federation with glory. He is world number three, but a young man has overtaken him at supersonic speed. Yago Abuladze was proclaimed world champion in Budapest, became number two in the ranking and, by force, had to make the leaders of the Russian Federation doubt when choosing. In the end the plan remains the same, Mshvidobadze in Tokyo and Abuladze in Paris. Mshvidobadze is the highest seed and in pool A with Tornike Tsjakadoea/Dashdavaa Amartuvshin. He might face Yang in the quarter final.
Takato Naohisa is Japan’s triple world champion and has a bronze from Rio, but above all he is the black beast of Mshvidobadze. Takato has also benefited from the designs of his national federation since it will be he and not the world number one, Nagayama Ryuju, who will participate in the Games. Mshvidobadze will be the first seed, Takato the second, which means they could only meet in the final. So far, Takato has won all his matches against Mshvidobadze, which is why the Russian's legacy is so heavy to carry and so difficult to carry on; for that and because Takato is not the only danger. He is in pool C with Joore Verstraeten and Moritz Plafky. The Belgian may face Takato in the second round.
Any country seems tiny when compared to the largest. However, in terms of value and toughness, few can huddle with Georgia. That's where Lukhumi Chkvimiani comes from; small, compact and very mobile. He has all the necessary weapons to be victorious in any fight. In 2019 he was world champion and although he now occupies the tenth position in the ranking, if he recovers his level of two years ago, he will be a clear candidate for the title. Chkvimiani is in that same pool with Takato, so very tasty.
Further east there is another contender. Also, his style is to attack at all costs. Uzbek Sharafuddin Lutfillaev was the victim of Chkvimiani's fury in the world championship final two years ago. He is also the typical rival that nobody wants to have in front of him, just like Chkvimiani.
Still further east there is another world champion, the 2015 champion. Kazakhstan has very sharp judoka. One of its banners is Yeldos Smetov, with a silver in Rio. For a year he has oscillated between second and fifth place in the tournaments he disputes, but everything smells of Olympic preparation. Smetov seems to have a good draw in pool D.
Francisco Garrigós is this year’s European champion and bronze medallist in Budapest; a silent, serious Spaniard in full ascension. Garrigos is with Lutfillaev but will first resist Luka Mkheidze of France.
The experienced Kim Won Jin, is the Korean with two world championships medals. Why not Yang Yung Wei, the best judoka in the history of Taipei. He is in the pool with Mshvidobadze.