Day two of the Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024 provided yet more thrills, drama and suspense as three brand new world champions were crowned at the Mubadala Arena in the Emirati capital, in the -57kg, -66kg and -73kg categories. On the third day of competition, athletes in the -63kg and -81kg categories will have their turn to go for gold and obtain the coveted title of world champion. Here we take a look at the key athletes and stories to follow in each category.

-63kg: Agbegnenou Aiming for Super Seven France’s Clarisse Agbegnenou will already go down in history books as the country’s most decorated female judoka ever and one of the most decorated of all time globally. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion arrives in Abu Dhabi aiming for an incredible seventh world title, which would put her on par with the legendary Ryoko Tani of Japan.

The -63kg medallists at the World Judo Championships - Doha 2023. (L-R) Andreja Leski (SLO), Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA), Sofi Ozbas (HUN), Joanne Van Lieshout (NED)

Agbegnenou comes into her eleventh world championship in good form having won back-to-back grand slam gold medals in Paris and Tashkent earlier this year, but as the eighth seed, she may face some of her toughest contests before she can make it out of her pool. She is likely to face a round three contest with 2022 world champion Megumi Horikawa (JPN); the pair endured a twelve-and-a-half-minute contest in round three of the aforementioned Paris Grand Slam. Should Agbegnenou defeat Horikawa again, then she may have a quarter-final clash with the number one seed and 2022 world silver medallist Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (CAN) or the recently-crowned European champion Renata Zachova (CZE).

Laura Fazliu (KOS) defeated Agbegnenou twice in 2023

The only athlete present in Abu Dhabi who has ever defeated Agbegnenou is the third seed Laura Fazliu (KOS). The Kosovan achieved that rare feat twice in 2023 but has struggled for form in 2024. Both Andreja Leski (SLO) and Joanne Van Lieshout (NED) shared the podium with the Frenchwoman in Doha at last year’s world championships and will relish the chance to finally knock her off the top spot. Can any of them stop Agbegnenou from winning a sublime seventh title?

-81kg: A Rivalry for the Ages The last three world championship finals at -81kg have been decided between Matthias Casse (BEL) and Tato Grigalashvili (GEO), with the latter coming out on top in the most recent two. For judo fans, their rivalry is the gift that keeps on giving; they have delivered so many memorable finals already in the few years that they have shared on the IJF World Judo Tour. With these two judoka occupying the top seed positions once again in Abu Dhabi, a mouth-watering fourth world final between the two is on the cards.

Tato Grigalashvili (GEO) and Matthias Casse (BEL) after the 2023 world final, from which the Georgian emerged victorious.

However, there are plenty of other highly decorated athletes who might have something to say about that. Casse faces a potential third round encounter with Timur Arbuzov (AIN); the 20-year-old Tbilisi Grand Slam 2024 winner is one of the rising stars of the category. Meanwhile, Grigalashvili could face Vedat Albayrak at the same stage, who is one of the few people on the circuit to have defeated both him and Casse more than once.

Vedat Albayrak is one the few people to have defeated both Casse and Grigalashvili more than once.

Other threats could come in the form of 2023 world bronze medallist Joonhwan Lee (KOR), who got the better of Casse in their only meeting so far, in the final of the Tokyo Grand Slam 2023, or indeed the other bronze medallist from Doha, Francois Gauthier Drapeau (CAN). Fourth and fifth seeds Guilherme Schimidt (BRA) and Zelym Tckaev (AZE) are also in good form. In truth, any number of athletes could spring a surprise, such is the depth to be found across the weight category. Can any of them spoil the party or will we see yet another chapter added to the sprawling and epic saga of Casse and Grigalashvili?

We can’t wait to find out. Join us and watch all the action live on day three at or on the JudoTV app, from 12:00 local time on Tuesday 20th May.

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