In judo there are champions and there are great champions. Lukas Krpalek falls squarely in the latter category. He has achieved what no other judoka has; he is a European, world and Olympic champion and he has held all of those titles in two different weight categories, first at -100kg and then at +100kg. At 32 years of age, he continues to prove all his doubters wrong. Despite all that he has achieved he continues to challenge himself and compete at the highest level of judo. After 6 years at +100kg following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he took the bold decision to move back down to the -100kg category and push for a 3rd Olympic title.
Final, Arman Adamian (AIN) vs Lukas Krpalek (CZE)

Krpalek entered the World Judo Championships – Doha 2023 with only two competitions under his belt at his new (and old) weight class; he took a bronze medal at the Portugal Grand Prix but exited the Paris Grand Slam in round 2. Many would have predicted another early exit at these World Championships, but Krpalek showed the world that it is foolish to doubt him, even now.

His path to the final was not a walk in the park by any means. In round 1 he was drawn against 2022 Tokyo Grand Slam winner Pirelli (ITA), known for wearing down his opponents and always attacking at pace. Indeed, Krpalek had already picked up two shidos as the fight entered golden score, being completely out-attacked by the Italian. As we’ve seen so many times before, though, Krpalek used his ne-waza prowess to save the day. His conversion rate on the ground is unrivalled in his category and in the first minute of golden score, he turned Pirelli over using hikikomi-gaeshi and immediately secured kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame to hold his opponent for waza-ari and snatch the win from the Italian’s grasp.

Final, Arman Adamian (AIN) vs Lukas Krpalek (CZE)

In round 2 against Goncalves (BRA) it was déjà vu, as Krpalek came into golden score down two shidos, but at the end of the 1st minute he turned the Brazilian, secured his upper body and then freed his leg to pin his opponent with kata-gatame for ippon. Round 3 gave us déjà vu all over again; Veg (HUN) attempted a tomoe-nage towards the end of the 1st minute of golden score, which Krpalek blocked, before eventually passing the Hungarian’s legs and pinning him for ippon, this time with yoko-shiho-gatame. 3 wins in ne-waza and already 15 minutes of mat time, but the Czech man endured.

Final, Arman Adamian (AIN) vs Lukas Krpalek (CZE)

Thankfully for him, his quarter-final did not require as much stamina. There he faced Sharkhan (KAZ), who had just knocked out 6-time world medallist Varlam Liparteliani (GEO) in round 3. A quick ko-uchi-gari inside 20 seconds scored Krpalek waza-ari and he used the same guard pass as he did against Veg to bypass the Kazakh’s legs and pin him for ippon with yoko-shiho-gatame.

In the semi-final, last year’s world bronze medallist Zelym Kotsoiev (AZE) would be the Czech’s opponent. Kotsoiev was on scintillating form, having thrown former world silver medallist Kukolj (SRB) and the in-form Fara (AUT) with his powerful uchi-mata. A head dive from his quarter-final opponent Peter Paltchik (ISR) sent Kotsoiev through to face Krpalek. The semi-final was incredibly close and ended after 5 minutes of golden score. Kotsoiev himself landed head first attempting his uchi-mata on Krpalek and was disqualified as a result. This was the 3rd time this tournament that this had happened to an Azerbaijani athlete, after Heydarov and Mollaei did the same. Regardless, Krpalek endured once more and was through to his 3rd world final.

World champion, Arman Adamian (AIN)

Krpalek’s opponent in the final was Arman Adamian (AIN). Following the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where he was not selected, Adamian went on a storming run on the IJF World Judo Tour, winning 3 gold medals in a row in Zagreb, Paris and Abu Dhabi and shooting straight to number 1 in the world rankings but, like Krpalek, he came into Doha unseeded, winning 5 fights to make it to the gold medal match. He threw Bouamar (ALG) in round 1 with a controlled uki-otoshi and then took a tactical victory over Khankan (IRT) in round 2.

The 3rd round saw him take on 2022 Jerusalem Masters silver medallist Catharina (NED), in what was an exciting back-and-forth contest. Adamian was the first on the scoreboard with a ko-soto-gake which scored waza-ari and he followed the Dutchman to the ground to secure a hold-down. Catharina escaped after 8 seconds, and then scored his own waza-ari one minute later, countering a dropping attack from Adamian. After one minute of golden score, Catharina received his third penalty and Adamian advanced to the quarter-final.

Bronze medallist, Peter Paltchik (ISR)

There awaited an even stiffer test in the form of world number 1 Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO), himself on typically dominant form but, incredibly, Adamian threw the Georgian for ippon after 2 minutes with ko-soto-gake, leaving his opponent stunned. Adamian went on to face Shady Elnahas (CAN) in the semi-final but despite trying everything he could to continue, the Canadian had to retire after sustaining an injury to his right side. Adamian therefore went through to what was his first world championship final.

In the final the goals of both fighters were clear. For Adamian, it was to throw. For Krpalek, it was to take the fight to the ground. The Czech fighter’s sacrifice throw attempts did give him a couple of opportunities on the floor but eventually worked against him, as he picked up a 3rd shido 1 minute into golden score for a false attack. Krpalek finished with silver, an unusual colour for him and Adamian earned a well-deserved world title.

Bronze medal contest, Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO) vs Zelym Kotsoiev (AZE)

The first bronze medal contest saw Sulamanidze and Kotsoiev battle it out for a place on the podium. The two fighters have similar powerful throwing styles and cancelled each other out for much of the contest, with only a couple of attacks coming close to scoring. With 30 seconds left on the clock, the Georgian launched a hugging ko-soto-gake attack but the Azerbaijani anticipated it and countered with koshi-guruma for ippon; despair for Sulamanidze, who missed out on a world medal for the second year running. DIt was delight for Kotsoiev, who took his second world bronze in as many years.

With Elnahas sadly unable to compete due to the injury sustained in his semi-final, the second bronze medal went to Paltchik, after he confidently dispatched Nurlykhan Sharkhan of Kazakhstan in their repechage contest. This was Paltchik’s first ever world medal at the 5th time of asking.

Medals, cheques and mascots were presented by Mr Vladimir Barta, Head Sport Director of the International Judo Federation, Mr Andrey Kryukov, Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Kazakhstan and Dr Sanda Corak, Education Director of the International Judo Federation and and President of the Croatian Judo Federation

Final (-100 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-100 kg)

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