Looking ahead to the second day of competition in the Georgian capital and we find the first of only 4 Japanese entries and the only one competing on day 2, Soichi Hashimoto. He sits at the top of the -73 kg draw sheet awaiting his start to the bidding, with either Khalidad (UKR) or Hamad (KSA) to meet him in round two.
2023 Masters champion Soichi Hashimoto (JPN).

At 32 years old, Hashimoto is among the oldest judoka in play in Tbilisi but with that comes an incredible record and a bank of experience that any opposition will struggle to overcome in their given 4 minutes of challenge time. He has 5 world medals including 3 finals and has in fact only not medalled twice at the worlds! Perhaps 21 year old Sherov (TJK) can give him a run for his money in the preliminaries or might the Japanese world champion have to wait until the final block to be pushed?

Sherov (TJK) not afraid of throwing Japanese opponents - here, fighting for junior world bronze, 2023.

Going somewhat out on a limb, it could be suggested that energetic first year senior from the States, Jack Yonezuka, could be a contender for the medals. He’s participated in 16 grand slams without claiming silverware but in Linz just two weeks ago he took his first World Judo Tour medal and at most events someone has been beaten by him, often on the ground. He has exquisite ne-waza which is developing and diversifying all the time and at some point he’s going to pounce on to the top spot at a grand slam. Why not Tbilisi? Why not now? Well, maybe Shavdatuashvili and his 3 Olympic medals will block him as they do share one quarter of the draw and Lasha is at home. The Georgian veteran and the American rookie would make a fun quarter-final match, that’s for sure.

Yonezuka (USA), happy to reach the Upper Austria Grand Prix podium this year.

Of course, there are 4 categories on day 2, -81 kg, -63 kg and -70 kg joining the -73 kg men. Each weight offers excitement and each offers interest. At -63 kg, for example, 21 year old Joanne Van Lieshout (NED), seeded 5th, will be keen to show what she can really do. In Paris this February she came very close to doing the unthinkable, pushing 6 time world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) right to the edge of possibility, forcing the Frenchwoman to draw on everything in her arsenal to avoid a shock defeat on home soil. Van Lieshout ended that day in 5th place, a disappointing end to an immense day’s judo. However, she’s turning into something of an exemplar in many ways. She is double junior world champion and already has a senior bronze. She’s currently in a top 8 position in the Olympic qualification campaign and she now medals more often than she doesn’t! There is no Clarisse in Georgia. Can Van Lieshout deal with the rest?

Van Lieshout's semi-final in Paris.

These questions will be answered just hours from now. Follow all four weight categories, the prediction league and the special end-of-day Golden Score show on JudoTV.com.

See also