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Fabio Basile back to U66kg weight class

Fabio Basile back to U66kg weight class

18 Dec 2022 21:20
by JudoCrazy and JudoInside - Hans van Essen / judo news, results and photos

Former Olympic Champion Fabio Basile (ITA) has announced through his Instagram page that he is now back to U66kg. This phenomenon seldom happens. Once a player moves up a weight, they tend to stay there although we did see the great Ilias Iliadis flirt with moving up to -100kg during brief periods in 2012 and 2013. After that experiment, he moved back down to -90kg, where he stayed until his retirement after the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he crashed out after a shock defeat in the first round. Bernadette Graf did it quite recently with success in the beginning of both switches.

Rustam Orujov and Hidayat Heydarov both switched to 81kg and back and obviously in the juniors there are plenty of exaamples of switches, mostly up, some switched back such as Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard who turned up and back to U63kg with success. Going back though is quite rare.

When you look at his top rivals in the U73kg class, Basile has not done well against them. Since Rio 2016, he has lost to Soichi Hashimoto (JPN) twice, Rustam Orujov (AZE) twice, Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO) twice, Bilal Ciloglu (TUR) twice, and Hidayat Heydarov (AZE) once. He has also won once and lost once to the reigning World Champion Tsogtbaatar Tsend-Ochir (MGL).

Rio 2016 was a different story for Basile, who had the competition of his life. He blitzed his way to the final where he proceeded to throw top favorite An Baul (KOR) for ippon, to become the surprise Olympic champion.

After the Rio Olympics, he took part in that year’s Tokyo Grand Slam where he crashed out in his first match. Then, he decided to enjoy his newfound celebrity, and waited until August the next year before he competed again. It was the World Championships and there, he was eliminated in his second match, ironically against An Baul. After that, he changed weight categories.

Basile's had mixed results since moving up a weight to U73kg, although he did manage to shine in the Tel Aviv Grand Prix in 2020 and in the Antalya Grand Slam in 2021, where he won gold in both occasions. This year hasn’t been too good for Basile though. His best results so far are 5th place at the Paris Grand Slam and 7th place at the Budapest Grand Slam.

But what could be the main impetus for Basile to move back down to -66kg is his compatriot, Manuel Lombardo’s decision to move up to -73kg this year. Although Lombardo failed to medal at the recent Tashkent World Championships (where he got 5th place), he did manage to get silver at the Antalya Grand Slam and gold at the Zagreb Grand Prix. He seems to have momentum going for him.

Crucially, Lombardo is ranked 9th in the World while Basile is ranked a lowly 26th. Unlike in IJF events, including the World Championships, where it’s possible for a country to send more than one player in a particular division, in the Olympics, each country can send only one athlete per category. Even if he could qualify for Paris 2024 at -73kg, Basile would still have to contend domestically with Lombardo for that one spot.

By moving back down to -66kg, Basile would have to start accruing Olympic ranking points from scratch but he has some time to do it. Currently, the top-ranking Italian in that division is Elios Manzi, who is ranked 12th in the World. He won’t be easy to beat. Manzi won gold at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam this past October and was 5th at the Tashkent World Championships (where he lost to An Baul). But perhaps Basile figured better facing him than Lombardo.

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