A thrilling fourth day of competition at the Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024 saw Margaux Pinot (FRA), Anna Maria Wagner (GER) and Goki Tajima (JPN) crowned as the new world champions of the -70 kg, -78 kg and -90 kg categories, respectively. Here we look ahead to the fifth and final day of the individual competition and pick out the athletes to watch in the -100 kg, +78 kg and +100 kg weight classes.
Kyle Reyes (left) and Shady Elnahas (right)

-100 kg: A Second Showdown for Canada The number one seed at -100 kg is Shady Elnahas and he leads fellow Canadian and fourth seed Kyle Reyes in the Olympic rankings by more than 800 points going into this event. Elnahas has picked up two grand slam silver medals this year, in Antalya and Tbilisi, along with his fifth senior Panamerican title in a row, defeating Reyes in the final in Rio de Janeiro; the two are drawn to meet in the semi-final. Reyes must make it onto the podium if he is to have any chance of catching Elnahas, but the former is already a world silver medallist, while the latter is yet to earn a first world medal.

There are three former world champions in the starting line-up: double world champion Jorge Fonseca (POR) is his country’s only world champion. After a rough start to 2024, last year’s champion Arman Adamian will be hoping for a return to form. Double world champion at -90 kg, Nikolos Sherazadishvili (ESP) has contested the final at all three of his World Judo Tour events so far in 2024 and will be confident he can win his first world title at his new weight category.

Nikoloz Sherazadishvili (ESP, centre left) won two world titles at -90kg

Much like the -90 kg category, there are so many big names that predicting the winner is an impossible task. Double world bronze medallists Michael Korrel (NED) and Zelym Kotsoiev (AZE), junior world champion Dota Arai (JPN) and rising star Daniel Eich (SUI) all have the potential to reach the podium.

Several athletes present are currently just shy of Olympic qualification and could cause some upsets. Serbia’s Bojan Dosen will be looking to move into the direct qualification places and catch up with his absent teammate Aleksandar Kukolj, while one of Louis Mai and George Udsilauri could still qualify for Germany with a good result here.

Shiyan Xu (centre left) and Xin Su (centre right) on the podium of the Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam 2023

+78 kg: China’s Su and Xu Will Go for Broke With her silver medal at the Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam just over a week ago, China’s Xin Su overtook her teammate Shiyan Xu in the Olympic rankings and leads the country’s internal race for selection by 500 points. The two are seeded first and second, respectively, so could meet in a dramatic final that would seal their Olympic fates.

In pool A, Su may face 4-time grand slam bronze medallist Hilal Ozturk (TUR) in round three and has a potential quarter-final contest with 8-time grand slam medallist Lea Fontaine (FRA), should they both win through. Meanwhile, double junior world champion Mao Arai (JPN), double world bronze medallist Kayra Ozdemir (TUR) and 4-time Olympic medallist Idalys Ortiz (CUB) join Xu in pool C.

Japan’s other entrant, Wakaba Tomita (JPN), is a 2-time world medallist but is unseeded in pool B. Third seed Beatriz Souza (BRA) heads up pool C and has two silver medals and one bronze from her last three world championships; she will be hoping that 2024 is the year she tops the world podium for the first time.

Kinga Wolszczak (POL) and Moira Morillo (DOM) are the only two unseeded judoka not already qualified for Paris who could realistically still achieve that goal with a good result, so they will be highly motivated to cause an upset or two. Wolszczak took a surprise silver medal at the Dushanbe Grand Slam a few weeks ago, but Morillo is yet to win her first World Tour medal.

Tatsuru Saito (JPN), Andy Granda (CUB), Guram Tushishvili (GEO) and Kim Minjong (KOR) on the podium at the 2022 Tashkent World Championships. All four will be in action in Abu Dhabi

+100kg: Who Will Gain (or Regain) the Heavyweight Title? The +100 kg category in Abu Dhabi boasts three former world champions looking to top the podium at a world championships once more. With Teddy Riner (FRA) and Inal Tasoev (AIN) choosing not to defend their 2023 title, the door is open for Guram Tushishvili (2018), Lukas Krpalek (2019) or Andy Granda (2022) to take home a second heavyweight world title.

Former world medallists Tamerlan Bashaev (AIN), Tatsuru Saito (JPN), Alisher Yusupov (UZB) and Kim Minjong (KOR) are also in the running. The number one seed is Temur Rakhimov (TJK) but he faces the prospect of a difficult round two contest with 3-time grand slam winner and current All-Japan champion Hyoga Ota. With such star power everywhere you look, there will be no simple route to gold for any of them.

Number one seed Temur Rakhimov (TJK) at the Dushanbe Grand Slam 2024

No fewer than three internal Olympic selections will be settled in Abu Dhabi, so the six judoka involved will be looking to summon the performance of their careers to ensure they get the nod. For the Netherlands, Jelle Snippe leads Jur Spijkers in the direct qualifying positions, while for Germany, Erik Abramov has a slim lead over Losseni Kone. For Türkiye, 18-year-old Ibrahim Tataroglu occupies the final direct qualification place in the category after his bronze medal in Astana just over a week ago but his colleague Munir Ertig is less than 200 points behind him in the rankings.

Don't miss a second of what promises to be a dramatic final day of individual competition. Day five of the Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024 kicks off at 12:00 local time on Thursday 23rd May. Watch all the action live at JudoTV.com or on the JudoTV app.

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