Masters of the mat
Ahead of the World Judo Championships in Tokyo, olympic.org highlights some of the judoka who have made a big impact on the global stage since their breakthrough performances at the Youth Olympic Games
Few athletes at the World Judo Championships in Tokyo will have more support than Japan’s Hifumi Abe. The 22-year-old is one of the biggest names in the sport, and the passionate home crowds will be hoping to cheer him on to a third successive world title in the -66kg weight class, following his gold medal-winning performances at the 2017 and 2018 World Championships. Abe has taken the sport by storm since winning gold at the YOG Nanjing 2014, where he defeated Ukraine's Bogdav Iadov in the final, and will be looking to further stake his claim as a potential star of next year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Khasan Khalmurzaev has gone from strength to strength since winning a silver medal at the YOG Singapore 2010 and will be among the favourites for the -81kg world title in Tokyo. The 25-year-old emerged as a genuine force on the world stage at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, winning gold by securing an ippon against the USA’s Travis Stevens less than three minutes into the bout. At the 2017 World Judo Championships in Budapest, Khalmurzaev lost to Germany’s Alexander Wieczerzak in the semi-finals, but won bronze after defeating Mongolian Otgonbaataryn Uuganbaatar in the third-place match.
After winning bronze medals at the 2014 and 2015 World Judo Championships – and silver last year in Baku – Japan’s Miku Tashiro will be looking to complete her collection with a gold medal on home soil in Tokyo. The 25-year-old has become one of the stars of the women’s -63kg weight class since shining at the inaugural YOG in Singapore in 2010. Then aged 16, Tashiro beat Brazilian Flavia Gomes in the gold medal bout, performing an ippon on her opponent after just three minutes.
Venezuela’s Elvismar Rodríguez secured her first major international title at the Pan-American Games earlier this month, so will be full of confidence heading to Tokyo. The 22-year-old was a bronze medallist at the YOG Nanjing 2014 in the -78kg weight class, but now competes in the lighter middleweight (-70kg) category. She will face stiff competition in Tokyo, with Japanese favourite Chizuru Arai looking for a third successive world title in the -70kg event.
Since suffering a surprise defeat in the opening round of the YOG Singapore 2010, Italy’s Odette Giuffrida has built an impressive résumé on the international stage. She placed fifth at the 2015 World Judo Championships and the following year claimed silver at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The 24-year-old also has three victories on the IJF World Tour, including the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. She will face a tough task in Tokyo, competing in the same -52kg weight category as Japanese superstar Uta Abe – the teenage sister of YOG gold medallist Hifumi Abe, who clinched her first world title in Baku last year.
Nemanja Majdov became Serbia’s first judo world champion when he clinched the global -90kg title in 2017 and will be looking to recapture that form in Tokyo. Now aged 23, Majdov was a silver medallist in the mixed team event at the YOG Nanjing 2014, while losing out to Cuba’s Iván Felipe Silva in the bronze medal bout of his individual event. Having also won a silver medal at the 2018 European Championships, Majdov is certainly no stranger to the podium at major international events.