Ippon of The Year
Kageura Kokoro (JPN) vs Cyril Maret (FRA) – World Team Championships Final +90kg category
With the Japanese flags waving and chants of ‘Nippon, Nippon’ ringing out around the iconic Nippon Budokan, the men’s heavyweights were pitted together in the opening contest of the team final.
After a stalemate in regulation time, Kageura produced a spectacular ko-soto-gari in golden score for ippon which had Inoue Kosei leaping for joy and the crowd purring with delight.
That sensational score set the tone for the home team who went on to win the title 4-2.
Moment of the year
Daria Bilodid winning her second senior world title
Daria Bilodid, the youngest world judo champion of all time, became the youngest judoka to win back-to-back world crowns.
The 19-year-old had slipped to a shock defeat against Melanie Clement at the Tbilisi Grand Prix in March but bounced back to win her three subsequent events of the year.
The world number one has been a revelation in this Olympic cycle and will be the favourite for -48kg Olympic gold on day one at Tokyo 2020.
Young judoka of the year
Manuel Lombardo (ITA)
The world-class Italian hotshot won three IJF events in 2019 starting with the opener, the Tel Aviv Grand Prix, and finishing in December with the Masters, on the back of victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
The -66kg ace also finished fifth at the Worlds and in Paris and Düsseldorf.
Turin native Lombardo also stunned then-world champion Abe Hifumi by throwing the Japanese with a modified kata-guruma not once but twice.
Italy’s latest starlet finished the year ranked number two in the world after going on a 10-0 run to finish his season on a high. Lombardo will be a major contender at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics having shown that he can beat anyone in the category.
Newcomer of the year
Lasha Bekauri (GEO)
The 19-year-old made a low-key IJF World Judo Tour debut when he exited the Baku Grand Slam in May at the expense of former world champion Nemanja Majdov (SRB).
Nobody would have predicted that before the year was up that he would end up winning the second biggest event of the season.
However, Georgia, are always capable of fast-tracking young prospects onto the IJF medal podium with almost alarming regularity and ease.
Bekauri won his second Junior World Championships in October, which pushed him up to number 36 in the world, and therefore he grabbed the final position in the Masters entry in the -90kg category.
The koshi-guruma specialist beat a who’s who list of stars in Qingdao as he conquered world champion Noel van T End (NED) in round three which meant that the junior champion had beat the senior champion.
Bekauri then saw off Japan’s Murao and former world silver medallist Ozerler of Turkey ahead of defeating world number one and 2018 world champion Sherazadishvili from Spain. The youngster is now up to 11th in the world and will be one to watch in 2020.
New for 2019 Award
The IJF unveiled a new 360-degree camera at the World Championships in Tokyo which earned rave reviews amongst those in the Nippon Budokan and those watching at home.
Judo is widely considered as one of the most dynamic and photogenic sports in the world and this around for all eight days the spectators could marvel at the skills of the sport’s leading judoka like never before.
Whether it was an uchi-mata from Ono, an o-soto-gari from Fonseca or a seoi-nage from van T End, ippons were given an unprecedented showcase as the action was paused – usually with one judoka in mid-flight – and shown for all angles as the camera made an entire circle around the action before finishing with the landing.
‘At Last’ Moment
Frank De Wit (NED) vs Medickson Del Orbe Cortorreal (DOM) – Dutchman finally beats his bogeyman!
Former Paris Grand Slam winner de Wit had been tormented by Del Orbe Cortorreal twice on the IJF circuit before finally gaining his revenge at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in October.
What really stands out about the shock wins for the Dominic Republic judoka was that both came in the World Championships.
In Baku 2018, de Wit lost to Del Orbe Cortorreal in his opening contest from an o-soto-gari and the unthinkable happened again in 2019 as he was caught by a ura-nage this time to his immense frustration.
The Dutch flyer finally beat his rival in October by ippon with shime-waza to his relief but will continue to be mindful of the underrated former Pan American Championships silver medallist.
History Maker of the year
Christa Deguchi (CAN) and Jorge Fonseca (POR)
Both judoka earned their country’s first world judo titles and in doing so wrote their names into the history books.
Deguchi won four of her five contests by ippon and beat former teammate and defending world champion Yoshida Tsukasa (JPN) in the final by a waza-ari score from a tani-otoshi.
Fonseca went six for six in Portugal as he emerged triumphant after the longest and greatest competition day of his life.
Both judoka now have a target on their backs, in the form of their red backpatch, and will look to bounce back in early 2020 after losing their respective opening contests at the Masters.
Match of the year
FRA v JPN – World Team Final
The World Team Championships never disappoints and the France v Japan final had it all this year.
The eighth and final day of the Worlds kept the best until last for many judo aficionados as the Japanese dream team went up against a French team who were united and were prepared to battle it out with the hosts.
Clerget beat Murao in a tense contest while Ono put on a show to defeat Chaine and Cysique stormed past Yoshida in mere seconds.
The team final was one to savour and wet the appetite for 2020 where the format will make its Olympic bow and Teddy Riner will be expected to line up for France.
Dream match of the year
Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS) v Abe Uta (JPN)
Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS) and world champion Abe Uta (JPN) finally met in arguably the most coveted contest of the entire year.
The fascinating battle of judoka from different generations had the capacity crowd on the edge of their seats as the newcomer beat the legend with the 19-year-old grinding down the 28-year-old hero from Kosovo.
Abe pinned down Kelmendi in golden score in their World Championship semi-final with a yoko-shiho-gatame and went on to capture her second world crown at the senior level.
Both judoka remain in their respective gold and red backpatches and will surely come up against each other again in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Fight of the year
Abe (JPN) v Maruyama (JPN) – Worlds semi-final
Joshiro Maruyama won the Worlds at his first attempt and in doing so secured a monumental win over defending world champion Abe Hifumi at the semi-final stage.
Tenri University judoka Maruyama made a slow start and appeared to be suffering from cramp in his fingers before he began to limp briefly.
As the contest continued the challenger was not backing down and, as the adrenaline took over, even tried to employ his usually potent uchi-mata with 30 seconds left. Golden score was needed to produce a winner and Abe, who could barely see out of his right eye, was caught with a yoko-otoshi after three minutes and 46 seconds, for a waza-ari score to end a semi-final blockbuster.
Agbegnenou (FRA) v Tashiro (JPN) – Worlds Championships final
Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) won her fourth title to enter the record books as France’s first woman to win four world judo titles. Agbegnenou won an epic rematch of the 2018 final as her arch-rival and three-time world medallist Tashiro Miku (JPN) gave the defending champion one of the toughest fights of her illustrious career.
Both judoka were totally spent as the clock passed seven minutes of golden score and a total of 11 minutes of contest time, and just as the momentum appeared to be turning towards the home judoka, Agbegnenou dug deep and exploded forward with a o-soto-makikomi for a waza-ari.
Surprise of the year
World no. 202 Kuwabara claims Brasilia GS gold
Grand Slam rookie and world number 202 Allan Kuwabara (BRA) sensationally claimed his first Grand Slam title at his first attempt as he convincingly beat Brazilian number one and Pan American Championships silver medallist Eric Takabatake (BRA).
The 27-year-old, who was only selected for the Grand Slam two weeks before the event, was an unexpected finalist and was not content with just contesting the gold medal contest as he threw Takabatake with a majestic ippon from a tani-otoshi in one of the biggest upsets in IJF World Judo Tour history.