The IJF World Judo Tour left an indelible mark on the sporting world in 2017. A hardy mixture of artistry and awe, conviction and coronation, respect and revelations, brought the sport to its most visible and stirring year with world-class action that gripped ardent judo supporters and attracted new fans.

This year's performances on the international circuit made purists purr with satisfaction as crisp techniques - as those outlined in The Gokyo but now in front of the eyes of the world -- showcased ippon judo to the masses and the sport's uncertain dynamic with nothing assured. The only thing assured is that the script cannot be written before judoka take to the mat and champions from all over the world can be upset in an instant with everything on the line for all for minutes of a judo contest.

The sport, when broken down as a titanic four-minute tussle of skill and wit, can be enjoyed by all regardless of your level of familiarity with the Olympic and Paralympic powerhouse. Fans are absorbed by the pulse-pounding action, in particular the seemingly laws of science-defying throws, but the level of respect and the upholding of the sport's deeply embedded moral code by it's finest practitioners is a lesson to society and indeed the world.

Judo's powers of attraction to an international audience do not rest squarely on the stocky shoulders of its champions but the world's elite judoka are central to the martial art's allure as a spectator sport for the masses.

The sport is blessed with extraordinary athletes with extraordinary skills and in 2017 new names joined the honours reel as the fascinating post-Olympic year on the IJF World Judo Tour offered stunning shocks and crowned the best judoka as world champions in Budapest at the Suzuki 2017 World Judo Championships.

After an unimaginable amount of hours in the dojo and travelling to all four corners of the world, in every non-Olympic year the IJF's crown jewel, the star-making World Championships, is the stage for the casting champions forward to become legends and for new upstart judoka to stamp their name on the sport and their candidacy as future Olympic contenders.

Judo's founding nation won exactly half of the gold medals on offer in the individual competition (7/14) as Inoue Kosei's charges followed up on a medal-heavy Rio 2016 Olympics with a ruthless display in Hungary.

One of the new stars of the IJF World Judo Tour, Hashimoto Soichi, has come into his own either side of the Olympics which saw his teammate and two-time world champion Ono Shohei deliver a masterclass to win the -73kg category in Rio de Janeiro.

While Ono rested post-Rio, Hashimoto, who has earned the appropriate nickname of 'The Ippon Hunter', was relentless in his pursuit of his first world title. The charismatic champion has lit up the tour this year with one-handed techniques, effortless throwing ability, and won admirers with all of the aforementioned and his playful nature of the tatami.

Get to known world champion Hashimoto Soichi - CLICK HERE

While Hashimoto was one of Japan's seven world champions and was inaugurated for the first time at the Worlds, Budapest saw some of the sport's leading names hold onto their crowns while others surprisingly faltered.

The greatest of champions can be unceremoniously humbled on any stage. This is judo. These athletes may show a superhuman ability but everyone can be conquered.

Judo has what every sport yearns for. Ippon. To us it is the finest example of judo, to the world it is the hair-raising moment where everything can be dramatically turned upside down in a heartbeat. Few sports can offer such drama and emotion as judo.

On the wrong side of such judo this summer was Kosovo's Olympic champion and double world champion Majlinda Kelmendi.

The venerated -52kg judoka has figuratively been flying the flag for her country for years and thankfully could represent her country on their Olympic debut in Rio where the 26-year-old led her country into the Maracana Stadium as their flagbearer and most famous export.

Kosovo's greatest ambassador Kelmendi was unbeatable in Brazil and that was expected to be the case in Budapest this year. However, the two-year unbeaten stretch of the reigning European champion was ended by eventual world champion Shishime Ai who was making her debut at the IJF's blue ribbon event.

Judo is a sport with fine margins and the golden backpatch of Kelmendi disappeared in the 10th minute of their semi-final when she was caught out by a uchi-mata-sukashi for a waza-ari score.

Kelmendi returned for the bronze medal contest against Worlds specialist Erika Miranda (BRA) who produced the only score of their contest with a soto-makikomi as the former left a World Championships empty-handed for the first time since 2011.

There was of course immense disappointment from Kelmendi and her team, but her name in gold on her judogi is a reminder to just how far she has come and that is also true of her young country.

The Kosovan hero has undergone surgery at the end of 2017 and intends to return by the summer before bidding to recapture her throne at Baku in September. Judo is a better sport for having the presence of Kelmendi and her nation and her return will be one of the top sports stories of 2018.

Fans and specialists highly-appreciated the quality of the World Championships, which was mentioned by many as being the best of all time. To describe it in a few words, we came to see Judo's foremost fan, IJF President Mr. Marius Vizer.

"It was a great World Championships, especially after the Olympic Games last year in Rio," said President Vizer.

"We have a new generation coming in and I think we are on our way to produce the best generation of judoka ever, before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

"The 2017 Suzuki World Championships in Budapest had great organisation at all levels with a very good public."


CLICK HERE for full results from the 2017 Suzuki World Judo Championships

Two world titles went to the same household in August as the Abe siblings both won gold and are now on the lips of everyone in Japan with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon.

Abe Hifumi, who rose to domestic fame by winning the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, has been surrounded by hype and subject to an intense media spotlight due to his staggering success while still a teenager on the IJF World Judo Tour.

The -66kg world number one, now 20, won two Grand Slams in 2017 (Paris and Tokyo) either side of winning the World Championships at his first attempt. Abe has a 37-2 win-loss record on the IJF World Judo Tour and is unbeaten since 2015 with a winning-streak of 28 contests. His two IJF defeats came at the hands of Mongolian ace Davaadorj Tumurkhuleg but the Tokyo 2020 favourite beat him for the first time in the Tokyo Grand Slam quarter-finals in December.

The five-time Grand Slam winner, who has one of the poster boy's of Tokyo 2020 since before his Worlds triumph, can expect to have his every move watched with a magnifying glass now and to be the subject of many more campaigns in addition to seeing his face on posters at the Tokyo Skytree, the world's tallest tower and one of the leading tourist attractions in Japan.

Junior world champion Abe Uta, 17, is the youngest Grand Prix winner in history after winning the 2017 Dsseldorf Grand Prix at the age of 16. The -52kg star won her home Grand Slam in December and will now be fast-tracked from the junior age group to be integrated into the senior team full-time with the 2018 World Championships in Baku in mind.

Abe Uta was visited by an IJF delegation at her base in Kobe during filming for IJF #JudoForTheWorld Japan 2 as the hit series return to the host country of the next Olympiad for a special look ahead to the coming years in the sport in its homeland.

The most prized title of all in any fighting discipline is widely regarded as they heavyweight title. Coveted by many, unfolding in front of eyes of millions, but attainable to only a few, one man stands out and stands alone in his field and in the world.

Teddy Riner is more than a name, more than a judoka and more than a champion. Judo's superstar and leading light is the most dominant athlete in the world. This is not a partisan projection but a description based on unthinkable feats and stats that would baffle the most capable number cruncher.

French colossus Riner, 28, a two-time Olympic champion, won his 9th and 10th world titles in 2017 and Grand Prix gold to extend his winning run to 144 consecutive contests which dates back to 2010. The living legend, who was a key part of Paris' successful 2024 Olympic bid, has no peer. No peer in judo, no peer in the world when it comes to controlling their art, being the most successful athlete in world sport, and being judo's greatest attraction.

His success, which is at such a head-turning level that will likely never be repeated, comes down to his ability to meet new challengers head on, respecting and taking every opponent seriously, and constantly seeing off new rivals just when judo's most initiated believe a new contender has the tools to trouble him.

Riner is a special who should be celebrated by everyone in judo and the world. When you think you have the answers, such as how to negate the Frenchman's left hand or his sheer size, Riner changes the questions.

Riner, who closed out the year by working with the UN on humanitarian projects in Africa, won the Budapest Worlds with ippons in all his contests except a waza-ari win over his highly-touted Georgian challenger Guram Tushishvili in a contest which more than lived up to its anticipation.

Title number 10 was delivered in Marrakech as the revived Openweight World Championships in November offered Riner an accelerated route to a decagonal abundance of gold medals of the Worlds variety.

Untouchable against heavyweights and opportunistic lighter weights who were swift of thought and movement, such as eventual silver medallist Toma Nikiforov (BEL), both hands were outstretched on the top of the medal podium as the world's media clicked away and fought their own battle for his attention.

In 2017 judo's hulking heavyweight phenom was announced as President of the IJF Athletes' Commission President for another term and continues to be a leader on and off the tatami.

The Budapest blockbuster that was the Suzuki 2017 World Judo Championships culminated with judo's first mixed team event on the world stage. The new format was adopted for the first time at the senior level after being successfully approved for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Top-seeded Japan ominously defeated Brazil 6-0 in the final to be crowned as judo's first Mixed Team World Champions at the elite level.

Japan's three male judoka and three female judoka all won their individual contests to whitewash a world-class Brazilian team.

Team events have always commanded the greatest amount of importance in Japan where they are a fixture at University and national events but, with the new inclusion of the format as a medal-winning event at Tokyo 2020, there is a new impetus for countries to invest in this area and to administer the same amount of support to all areas of their team.

An impressive figure of 21 nations entered the inaugural Mixed Team Event in Budapest as International Olympic Committee President Dr. Thomas Bach was among the distinguished guests on the last day of the World Championships.

"The place of judo is very important as part of the Olympic program," said Dr. Bach. "We are really looking forward to the Olympic Games in Tokyo and especially for judo.

"Japan is the motherland of judo so in Tokyo judo will play an even greater role within the Olympic family. I won my Olympic gold medal in the fencing team event. So this mixed team event has a special taste for me. But at the same time it's very important because individual athletes will get the team spirit and we will also promote gender equity."

The highest World Ranking List points total was scored by world champion and World Judo Masters winner Hashimoto Soichi (JPN) who also won two Grand Slam titles in 2017. Hashimoto scored 7150 points.

Mongolian hero Dorjsuren Sumiya finished with the highest points total among the seven women's categories. Dorjsuren won the Worlds, Masters and the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam to amass 7132 points.

Judo has no limits, judo is everywhere. Among numerous Head of States around the world who are fans of judo there was a very happy one in Budapest.

The President of Mongolia, H.E. BATTULGA Khaltmaa, who is also President of the Mongolian Judo Association, has often worked out with his country's national team at their training centre in Ulaanbaatar and was in attendance for Dorjsuren's victory in Budapest.

H.E. Battulga Khaltmaa, himself a well-rounded fighter of some repute, said: "The gold medal is very important. We were there to get the gold medal.

"It was a great day for Mongolia. We won against Japan and took the first title for a non-Japanese athlete. France won its first medal of the competition and we have now four medals. Mongolian judo is becoming the number one sport in my country. But judo is much more than a sport. It is discipline and education, as well as respect, and in judo we bow to each other. Now we have discovered the new heroes of Mongolia."

Both judoka received a $50,000 windfall for ending the year as the world number one's along with the 12 other top-ranked judoka at the end of 2017 as the IJF pumped a record $700,000 bonus back into the sport.

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