The month of May, however, will hold particular attention. It is indeed at this precise moment of the calendar, just before the Hohhot Grand Prix (China), that the international circuit will officially enter the Olympic qualifications for Tokyo 2020. If the points won in competition are already important for the world ranking, because they secure a place in the top-eight of each weight category and therefore a top spot in the draw, every single point will become crucial from China on to hope to win a qualification for the Olympic Games in Japan.
It must be said that for any judoka, participating in the Games is an objective in itself, to win a medal, a dream, but the fact that judo returns to Japan in 2020, in the mythical Budokan that saw the Dutchman Geesink winning gold in the 1964 Tokyo Games against Japan's Akio Kaminaga will give these 2020 Games a special flavor.
Above: Anton Geesink and Kaminaga in 1964
Anton Geesink is one of those legends of sports and judo in particular who are impossible to forget. By defeating Kaminaga in Tokyo, after having already been World Champion in Paris in 1961, the Dutch giant, 1m98 for 120kg, thanks to his historic victories, propelled judo on the international scene. Later he was the initiator of color judogis before becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee.
After the very successful 2017 World Championships in Budapest, which saw 14 new titles awarded plus a first mixed team title to a very dominating Japan, the 2018 edition, which will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan in September, will be eagerly awaited. On the one hand, it will be qualifying for the Games and on the other hand it will really give a strong idea of who are the contenders for the Olympic title in three years. Will Riner be able to maintain his supremacy over the heavyweight category while his concurrents are getting closer? Will Kelmendi comeback after a complicated 2017 season? Will the Japanese armada, which has the advantage of playing at home in 2020, but also at the 2019 world championships that will also be held at the renovated Budokan, remain almost invincible? A season that opens always brings more questions than it gives answers. But that's the beauty of judo, nothing being written in advance. In one second the biggest favorite can be thrown on the back. And it's over.
Above: Guram TUSHISHVILI was the strongest opponent of the French Teddy RINER in 2017. Will he be again in 2018?
In 2017 a historic decision was made with the entry into the Olympic program of the mixed team competition. Already tested at the world championships in Budapest but also for other age categories (cadets and juniors) this competition promises to be one of the highlights of this new season and those to come.
2018 will also be an Olympic year as the Youth Olympic Games will be held in October in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It will be the turn of the best cadets of the moment to taste the Olympic flavors by discovering what the Games represent. Many of those who will take part in both the YOG 2018 sport and culture programs will also be seen in the big senior tournaments in the upcoming years and if they may not be in Tokyo in 2020, they will for sure be in Paris in 2024. In Argentina, they will have the chance to exchange and learn a lot from their elders, since the athlete role model for judo will be Paula Pareto, World Champion and Olympic Champion. Other big names of the sport such as Ilias Iliadis (GRE) will also be present to share their life experience and that of athlete of the highest level.
Above: Paula PARETO (ARG - blue judogi) will be the athlete role model of the Buenos Aires youth Olympic Games
Throughout the year it will be possible to follow on our website and on our social networks the cadet and junior circuits that foreshadow what the judo of tomorrow will be. About social networks, the IJF, which finished in the top ten of the most dynamic federations on the web in 2017, will offer you many surprises throughout the year. We will take you to discover new destinations as part of the Judo for the World series and develop even more educational projects in order to develop a better society, we will always offer more content, portraits, photos and videos, testimonials ... and will have the pleasure of interacting with all the fans of our sport on the five continents.
If there is one question that can already be answered, it is: What will 2018 look like for the world of judo? It will be exciting, exhilarating, thrilling, surprising, incredibly lively; there will be disappointments for the fallen champions but also immense joys for the newcomers; there will be lives positively impacted by the simple fact of treading the tatamis of the world. So stay tuned and long live judo.