The curtain fell on the 2017 judo world circuit, which has just ended in apotheosis in St Petersburg, Russia, at the World Judo Masters in late December. During the end of the year's festivities, the big international judo circuit will remain closed to come back with its new show on the occasion of the first event of the season 2018, in Tunis (TUN), from January 19-21. This first Grand Prix of the season will be followed closely by two major Grand Slams in Europe, the first one in Paris and the second in Dsseldorf which, from February, will see its status upgraded (from a Grand Prix).
The world of judo, well rooted in its moral code and its humanistic values, brought lots of smiles and tears, happy moments of emotions, cartloads of ippon, and in other words, 2017 marked the transition between two Olympic cycles, allowing all the judo fans, to fully enter in a new era, the one of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
HEAD IN THE STARS
2017 began with an interplanetary journey, as French astronaut, Thomas Pesquet, delivered during the Paris Grand Slam, a message to the judo planet from the International Space Station. Six months in orbit for the judo black belt did not make him lose the sense of direction and Thomas explained that the values he had learned on the tatami, were still very useful when it came to tightening the bolts of the space station and that controlling his emotions helped him to master the essential vital activities at a 400km altitude. This message was definitely well perceived and may be what will have to be remembered of an amazing year.WATCH THE MESSAGE FROM SPACE.
The International Judo Federation belt floating inside the International Space Station (Photo: ESA)
But one may remember even more the incredible vision of his black belt floating in weightlessness or the dancing of the little mascot 'Judoroo' which, the year before, had travelled throughout Australia during the Judo Educational Journey. For the little 'animal' ending up as a member of the space crew and flying over our heads at 28,000 km/h was kind of an achievement. What a journey!
Thomas Pesquet and Judoroo Junior during their 6-month mission in space (Photo ESA)
A STORY OF BRIDGES
Judo's latest success at the 2016 Rio Olympics underscored how far our sport has come in recent years. If it has become one of the driving forces of the Olympic movement, it remains an incredible educational tool that reaches millions of people on the five continents. Without any doubt, many young judokas dream one day of reaching the Olympic grail. If there are many candidates on the starting line, there will only be a few elected in four years in Tokyo when the judo will return 'home', in the legendary stadium which saw a giant called Anton Geesink (NED) defeating for the first time the Japanese armada. It was in 1964 and it was already at the Budokan. Will history repeat itself at the end of this new Olympic cycle? Nothing is less certain and it is also what makes the magic of the sport. But this is another story that has yet to be written.
Over the past months, thousands of young people, who have the Olympic dream pegged to their body, and many more who are simply passionate and for whom the only dream to have a better life through the practice of their favorite sport is worth living, have participated in educational activities.
From the Kodokan to the Amazon
It is a fact that judo has the ability to be practiced everywhere, from the top floor of the Kodokan in Japan, to the Amazon rainforest, or to the South African Refugee Program led by a judo teacher graduated from the IJF Academy level 2, or to the Maheba refugee settlement in Zambia, where a Judo for Peace program, initiated in 2016 with 13 judokas, now counts more than 150 practitioners. Through its 'Judo for the World' program, the IJF has strived to promote the values of judo, whatever the conditions of life and practice are.
Yuri Alvear (COL) at the Machu Picchu in Peru
To do so, last January an international team flew to Peru. Fighting against mosquitoes in Iquitos or challenging the altitude at Machu Picchu, judo came out victorious in every of its fight against odds. In the middle of the season, Dagestan, a great supplier of Russian medals at the international level, and Siberia, opened wide to allow the caravan of judo to pass.
The three 2012 Russian Olympic Champions, from left to right: Tagir Khaibulaev, Mansur Isaev and Arsen Galstyan were happy to show there country during the Judo for the World programme.
The mountains of the Caucasus and the Siberian taiga still remember it. Then it was the turn of millennial Mongolia to celebrate judo. In the footsteps of Genghis Khan, who now looks like the new President of the country, also president of the National Judo Federation, Battulga Khaltmaa, a team of judoka crisscrossed the steppe accompanied by a group of dentists. In addition to the sports program, dental care was provided for more than 1000 people. A first in the world of sport.
In Mongolia, from left to right: Battulga Khaltmaa, President of Mongolia, Mashbat Bukhbat, General Secretary of the Mongol Federation, Pagva Bira, Vice-President of the federation and Ilias Iliadis (Olympic and World Champion)
To accompany the IJF in its task, renowned champions have put themselves at the service of the cause, champions who after having evolved into the high spheres of the judo world, have the will to come back to the essence of the sport. In Peru, the three-time World Champion and two-time Olympic medalist, Yuri Alvear (COL), was part of the big celebration, while the Russian champions opened their incredible country in May. In Mongolia, it was the turn of Greek god, Ilias Iliadis, to satisfy his childhood dream by going to rub with a Mongolian team in full revival. It is also by building these bridges between the very high level and the rest of the judo planet, that the judo took a new dimension in 2017.
JUDO IS A WOMEN'S STORY
It should be noted that, in a high competitive context, embellished with projects with strong added educational value, judo took a very feminine hue in 2017. Everyone will remember the return under the spotlights of Myriam Roper (winner of the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam in May). We left Myriam as a German number one athlete after the Rio Games and she now wears the colors of Panama, the home country of her father.
Sabrina Filzmoser is getting closer to the top of the world helping young children to discover judo
One will not forget Sabrina Filzmoser (AUT), whom we met in the foothills of the Himalayas at the end of 2016 during an educational program in Nepal, who went back to Nepal, full of selflessness and passion, to help her Nepali friends at the very foot of Everest. READ MORE.
One will have an emotional thought for Yarden Gerbi (ISR), whose prize list is envied (World Champion and Olympic medalist) and who decided to hang up her competition judogi. But this is just a goodbye as Yarden was already present on the tatami of the The Hague Grand Prix (NED), not as a competitor though, but as an educator and a vector of transmission of judo in front of amazed and wide-eyed children.
Yarden Gerbi during the masterclass in The Hague (NED), where she performed together with Mark Huizinga (2000 Olympic Champion)
One will be thinking of Yu Song (CHN), World Champion for the second time in Budapest this summer, who was awarded the National Olympic Committees prize.
One will look more closely in the months and years to come, at the careers of Asahina Sarah and Abe Uta, both Japanese, and both well established on the Olympic gold highway. A case to follow.
Paula Pareto (ARG) will be the Judo Embassador at the next Youth Olympic Games
It is difficult to be exhaustive, as women have played an important role in the development of world judo in 2017. Yuri Alvear has already been mentioned; Paula Pareto (ARG), the Rio Olympic champion, came back to competition in 2017, regularly appearing on the international podiums and in 2018 she will be a judo ambassador at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games.
Judo in 2017 is also about the IJF Academy, which saw the number of its students explode. It is now possible to study the basics of teaching and judo training in many languages around the world. Several sessions were held from Zambia to Australia, via Turkey or Mexico.
Last practical phase of the Level 1 Instructor Course of the IJF Academy took place in Riga, Latvia
Many Judo for Children programmes, which goal is to promote judo at school and to include it within the school curriculum, have been successfully ran throughout the year.
Cooperation was strengthened with the military and police world, with the sport for the blind and hearing impaired, with the school sports federation, while in the medical field also the IJF was actively involved in international conferences.
The fifth edition of the Sergei Judo Camp, organized in partnership with the IJF and the Olympic Solidarity, took place in Fish, Switzerland in July, bringing together the best cadets of the moment, while the IJF high level training and preparation centers were in full swing throughout the sports season, with a special mention for the Dunavarsany center in Hungary, which allowed many countries without adequate facilities to prepare for the world championships.
The 5th edition of the Sergei Judo Camp gathered together the best cadets in the world (Photo SJC)
Judo draws its references in Japanese martial arts. To illustrate this very strong bond between sport and artistic expression, for the first time in history, a major art exhibition was organized on the occasion of the Budapest World Championships. It was a great success and highlighted the work of artists with a strong connection to our sport.
New Judo was the guest of honor at the Cadets World Championships (Santiago, Chile) and Juniors worlds (Zagreb, Croatia) where the seeds of future great champions were planted. It will be necessary to stay on the lookout, in the months and years to come because undoubtedly, certain names which appeared during the summer and at the beginning of the autumn will become safe values of the international circuit very soon.
The tradition was highlighted at the Kata World Championships, while all generations came together at the Veterans World Championships, both events taking place in Olbia, Italy.
Kata World Championships 2017 (Photo Cees de Haan)
On the 28th of October, a new and very successful #WorldJudoDay was organized in more than 60 countries at a time, the birth anniversary of the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, being celebrated with dignity through nearly 200 projects on the theme of courage. At the end of the year, the first episode of a series of four films on Japan was filmed, for a first broadcast in early 2018.
The red 'tatamis' were unrolled many times throughout the year, when IJF President, Marius Vizer, had the honor of receiving or being received by the top leaders of this world. It was first Russian President Vladimir Putin, IJF Honorary President and a Judo passionate, who came specially to attend the World Championships and was joined by the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, and the new President of Mongolia, Battulga Khaltmaa.
During the first day of the World Championships in Budapest, from L-R: Mr. CSANYI Sando, OTP President, H.E Mr. Viktor ORBAN, Hungarian Prime Minster, Russian Federation President and IJF Honorary President, His Excellency, Mr. Vladimir PUTIN, IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER, H.E, Mr. KHALTMAA Battulga, President of Mongolia and President of the Mongolia Judo Association
2017 also saw the election of several Presidents of National Federations at the head of their respective National Olympic Committees, as in Chad or Zambia for example.
At the IJF Gala, celebrating 65 years of history of the the organization, tribute was paid to world judo legends (Yasuhiro Yamashita, Haruki Uemura, George Kerr, Omar Danga Loum, Jean-Luc Rouge, Jan Snijders, Yukimitsu Kano, Luis Guardia, Franco Capelletti), who actively have been supporting the development of judo worldwide, sponsors (OTP, SOCAR, TAISHAN, DALKIA), national federations (Croatia), continental unions, champions (Majlinda Kelmendi, Teddy Riner), media (Hakuhodo, Euronews, Huxley, AIPS), as well as the IJF Academy, the Judo for Peace program, and the hosts of the flagship event of the season in Budapest. READ MORE ABOUT THE IJF GALA.
Mijlinda Kelmendi during the IJF 65th anniversary in August in Budapest
A NEW MEDIA ERA
2017 will undoubtedly mark a major turning point in the media development policy of the international federation. While a strong partnership already existed with the continuous news channel Euronews, an agreement was announced in August with the American TV powerhouse, CNN, propelling judo into a new world and offering a new worldwide visibility never reached before, while the partnership with the Japanese company, Hakuhodo DY Media partner, strengthened with the aim of preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
An important partnership with CNN was signed in 2017. The TV channel is following the World Judo Tour and created a magazine dedicated to judo (Watch JUDO WORLD)
Echoing the famous phrase attributed to the Italian mathematician, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642 - "And yet it moves") and to finish on a global note such as that evoked by Thomas Pesquet's journey, the least we can say is that the judo planet has been constantly rotating and will keep rotating forever throughout the months to come. Here are summaries of some of the facts that have marked a year that was so rich in events and actions. It is almost impossible to be exhaustive as the projects run by all teams of the International Federation were numerous. 365 days are 365 opportunities to promote judo on all fronts and there are even more opportunities to provide a better life for millions of fans. In a few days the 2017 book will close and a new book will begin to be written, with more and more events on the World Judo Tour and more development action under the umbrella of 'Judo for the World', simply because judo is much more than a sport, he is an art of living.