We have reached the halfway point in Doha with 4 days of individual competition behind us and 3 still to go, plus the mixed team event.

The medal table tells an interesting story but is perhaps riddled with more questions than answers.

There are 24 nations listed with a minimum of one 7th place. Japan is at the top but with only 3 gold from 8 possible top spots. The 4-time world champion Takato is still reeling after a 5th place finish, Hashimoto was surpassed by Europeans, Deguchi dealt with Funakubo and at -81kg Grigalashvili was too much for them all. Japan can be caught!

France is second, to be expected! But from there it is all over the place. Who might we expect next? Well, it’s Canada, dominating at -57kg with two medals, and then Georgia, assisted a great deal by Tato’s gold on day 4, because without that they sat in a distant 14th place.

In 5th and 6th place are Spain and Switzerland which, let’s face it, makes no sense because they are above Uzbekistan, Italy, Azerbaijan and Brazil, among others. Garrigos and Stump were simply outstanding and will have leant their respective teams a massive boost, some belief, access to the podium.

Speaking of Brazil, where are they? Currently they sit way down in joint 22nd with just one 7th place from Lima at -48kg. Olympic and double world champion Silva went out in round 2. Willian Lima, Jessica Lima, seeded Schimidt, Quadros; all out. Beatriz Souza might be their only hope.

Azerbaijan? 19th going in to day 5. We were sure Mollaei would take a medal in that melting pot at -81kg. He’s shown incredible form for a sustained period. Of the last 5 World Judo Tour events he has entered, he has medalled at 5. He only just missed out at the 2022 world championships and now he’s repeated that in 2023. He’s not alone. Heydarov and Aghayev are both ranked second in the world but couldn’t bring home a result . The women’s team are still in the development stages and weren’t expected at the top but the men’s team is fierce and experienced and also broad with big names across all the categories. Kotsoiev and Mehdiyev have some pressure to manage going into the second half of the competition.

Kotsoiev (AZE) is capable of big wins - victory in Tel Aviv

One country doesn’t appear on the medal table at all, one which was almost guaranteed to be in the mix. With two current world number ones Great Britain was expected to figure in the results lists, at least at -52kg and -63kg. Chelsie Giles didn’t register to compete though, much to the confusion and perhaps relief of the rest. Lucy Renshall did however, but she left after just one contest when 20 year old double junior world champion held an early waza-ari to be the author of the first major upset in a category filled with upsets by the end of the day. The GBR men haven’t produced a result on the World Judo Tour for some years and so there was no expectation. It’s all left to do for the heavier British women and perhaps Powell is their best hope, with 3 continental medals, 3 Masters medals and a world bronze. She is an experienced player and can throw the best but she is in Tcheumeo and Hamada’s quarter, which doesn’t bode well.

Slovenia squeezed into the top 10 nations yesterday after Leski doubled her personal world medal tally, reaching the second world final of her career, meeting the same adversary as last time and achieving the same result. It was a good day for her and for her team after a difficult few months.

Leski (SLO) takes her second world silver

Israel has no medals and had high hopes with Muki, who came close, but Paltchik and Hershko are still to come and we know how much they like a challenge. Kosovo also have no medals with neither of their two current Olympic champions being able to peak in Doha. Distria Krasniqi is ranked number 2 in the world and hasn’t left a tournament without a medal since Baku in 2021. Nora Gjakova looked outstanding at the beginning of day 3 but was thrown by Bozkurt (TUR) who came from nowhere, 61 in the world, to take out both Silva and the Kosovan and then in the repechage Korean starlet Mimi Huh made sure there was no medal for Kosovo.

With 3 more days of individual competition to go, the medal table is open and athletes from Spain, Mexico and Turkiye have shown us that anything is possible. We can already see that this world championships is very special, with more athletes, more pressure, more desire from everyone to perform prior to Paris 2024.

Take a look at JudoTV.com and make your predictions using the ‘Prediction League’ tab. The judoka are making it hard for us but that’s where the fun is.

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