Number ones have been shocked to find themselves either out or fighting for their lives in the repechage, that is all except Tato Grigalashvili. The Georgian entertainer was the only world number one or top seed from days 1 to 6 to reach the top of the podium and convert the promise his ranking made.
Temur Rakhimov (TJK) has been the heavyweight world number one for a while but he still struggles to convert ranking into milestone medals. At 25 years old and with a junior world bronze, a Masters medal and 6 grand slam medals, he still hasn’t won a continental title or a senior world medal; he’s tried 4 times at the worlds and has 2 seventh places and a 5th. These are not bad results but they don’t illustrate his long reign at the top of the WRL. We feel there is a world medal coming but whether or not it will be in Doha remains to be seen.
Kageura is in his quarter and has a two-nil lead over the Tajik judoka. Bashaev is also there; they are the only two men who have beaten Teddy Riner in living memory!
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Rakhimov has got it all right and he’s ready right now, today, to take that illusive world medal, he’ll have to pass through Kageura or Bashaev first. Awaiting him in the semi-final would be Teddy Riner or Tasturu Saito. If Rakhimov gets through that barrage, he will have earned the right to be world champion, the final itself notwithstanding.
Taking a look at the women’s +78kg draw, the world number 1, therefore sitting in pole position on the sheet, is France’s Romane Dicko. She wears the red backpatch and also has an Olympic bronze medal. She’s been senior European champion three times already, has won the Masters twice and she’s only 23.
Her ranking has earned her a manageable quarter at the top of the sheet. Souza (BRA) should meet her in the semi-final, if all goes to plan. At this point we remind ourselves that not much has gone to plan in Doha, with Spain, Switzerland and Israel taking golds that were supposed to be reserved for other nations, Japanese victory being the biggest expense.
Dicko and Souza have met 4 times before in the World Judo Tour and every win has gone to France. Confidence must also be French here. It’s the other side of the draw that poses the biggest threat to Dicko’s title defence.
Raz Hershko has never beaten Dicko but gets better and better every time we see her and she has some big medals to back up her campaign. There’s also 35 year old Sayit (TUR) who until this year had never beaten Dicko but in 2023 has done it twice, in Antalya and in Dicko’s home event in Paris.
Finally, Sone will almost certainly be in the mix. The 22 year old world and Olympic champion lost to Dicko’s teammate, Coralie Hayme, at the Masters in December and we don’t think she wants to repeat that mistake in Doha. Sone has never lost to Dicko and will fully intend to continue that trend.
So, the big question is, who will meet Dicko in the final, as her not reaching that gold medal contest seems virtually impossible. Although, this is the craziest world championships and Garrigos, Stump and Lanir tell us that anything is possible. Only Tato sits in Dicko’s corner as the advocate for successful bids from the top of the draw.
All day 7 contests can be followed live on JudoTV.com