Preview U60kg Doha: Who can stop Takato from winning his fifth title
There are 37 men in the lightweight division U60kg, less than the 45 women at the first day of the World Championships. The lightweights will start on Sunday with their battle for gold and valuable points in the Olympic Qualification for the Paris Games. Top favorite has to be Naohisa Takato of Japan. Although he has not competed internationally this year, there is really nobody who is quite his calibre.
Yang Yung Wei of Taiwan is always interesting to watch as he is such a capable fighter but he has had a history of having difficulty dealing with Japanese opponents, including Takato. Giorgi Sardalashvili of Georgia has a very unorthodox style and could prove to be a dark horse.
Yang is though in the same pool with Takato as world number 1 and 8 and will have to battle in a possible quarter final who will move on for the top positions. Youngster Sardalashvili is in the pool with another European contender, Fran Garrigos of Spain. Also Korean Jeon and French Revol might have a chance to progress.
On the other side of the table Balayan Aghayev (AZE) is definitely a top contender. He seems to have a good draw. Last year’s sensation and world runner-up Ariunbold Enkhtaivan is in this same pool as well as the experienced former world champion Yeldos Smetov (KAZ).
Korea’s highest ranked man Harun Lee is on the same side with Jorre Verstraeten of Belgium who may meet with a tough rival from France, Olympic bronze medallist Luka Mkheidze.
The 37 athletes have a high level but the number itself is frankly low compared to the 42, 46 and even 68 and 74 of the last years in this division. Who can hold off Olympic Champion Naohisa Takato from a fifth World title. He started with his first gold in 2013 in Rio and rules with his unorthodox and attractive judo, but still fights with his brain.