Let’s be clear; this world championships is stacked! It’s not just a little bit stacked but really saturated with quality, with evidence of potential, with previous champions and with some terrifying consequences rearing their heads to meeting us as early as the very first round in some categories.

Day 1

One - We will begin with pool A at -60kg, the home of the world number one, Yang Yung Wei (TPE). With 16 World Judo Tour medals, including the Olympic silver from Tokyo, he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. However, only two of those medals are golds. Consistency is clear but not quite on the level he might like.

Yang Ying Wei (TPE) and Takato fought the final in Tokyo, 2021.

Let’s add Takato (JPN) into the conversation because as the 8th seed, due to his lack of competitive appearances, he’s right up there on the same quarter. One of them is not getting gold in Doha and the stats are in Takato’s favour. Of his 24 medals only 5 of them are not gold! When he competes he wins, that’s the significant takeaway. His last loss was in the 2022 All Japan final but before that there’s only victory all the way back to the 2019 Tokyo World Championships where he placed 5th, shocking himself and the rest of the judo world.

Two - Pool B at -60kg looks set to produce fireworks between two junior world champions. One of them is 19 year old Sardalashvili (GEO) who seems to be on course for stardom. He won last year’s junior event in Ecuador and has since made the step up to seniors very well indeed taking 3 solid grand slam medals. The other is 28 year old Garrigos of Spain who won the 2014 edition but despite ranking highly among the world’s lightweights, hasn’t yet registered a senior equivalent. This is a classic youth versus experience situation and to be honest, we aren’t sure which way this one will go!

Sardalashvili winning his quarter-final at the Tbilisi Grand Slam, 2023

Three - Day 1 also brings us the speed and ingenuity of the -48kg women. The French discussion here is very public indeed with Blandine Pont executing an ingenious coup, playing a sophisticated catch-up in the hunt for Paris selection.

Boukli is the world number 1 having steamrolled over all opposition in 2022, taking 5 golds including the World Judo Masters title. She missed out at the Tashkent Worlds but that was a blip and it was well and truly rectified in Jerusalem.

Boukli was unstoppable in Jerusalem

Pont, though, has decided 2023 is her year, winning in Paris, Tel Aviv and Antalya; 3 golds from 3 outings. She’s on form, she’s enjoying life and she wants her home Games. The dangling carrot of Olympic selection is likely to be the fuel that ignites to carry them both to the final. Well, that is if the Japanese duo of Koga and Tsunoda don’t trip them up en route. Let’s note that the podium hasn’t escaped Tsunoda’s footsteps for 5 years. When she enters, she wins medals and at her last two world championships she walked away with gold.

Pont won gold in front of her home crowd in Paris, 2023

Four - Tara Babulfath! That name is going to be read aloud a lot in the coming years. She has just stepped out of the cadet age category, a junior for just 5 months, but with European cadet gold, world cadet silver and 3 golds from her last 3 junior world ranking events. She’s making a bid for her senior status very early but this Swede appears to achieve her goals in unwavering fashion. In Doha She’s likely to face Tsunoda in the third round and we can forgive her for losing there but she will throw everything at this opportunity. She’s worth watching. Remember the name. Tara Babulfath (SWE) is preparing for stardom!

Tara Babulfath (SWE) winning her semi-final at the 2022 World Cadet Championships

The fun of the prediction league is up and running on JudoTV. Click on your favourites and see what they say about your guesses. In just a few hours we will have two new world champions or perhaps two returning guests and we will hoist their flags high above the tatami at the ABHA Arena.

See also