With or without a pandemic, there are things that do not change. Now that the World Judo Tour has closed its doors, while some rest, we do the maths and we do it in several languages, to respect the hierarchy. That is why we have started to learn Japanese.
Amandine Buchard (FRA) and Abe Uta (JPN)

We focus on gold because it is the measure of all things. If we talk about the WJT, including the Masters, but leaving aside the world championships, Japan has added 28 titles from ten tournaments, including four in which they did not even participate. That is, 28 golds from six tournaments! That dominance was practically absolute in the grand slams of Tashkent (9), Paris (7) and Baku (5). Also, there is a balance between women and men. This means that, for yet another year, Japan continues to be the best country in the world in terms of judo. When there are Japanese judoka in tournaments, there are gold medals for them and the rest already know that parameter. Removing Japan from universal sovereignty does not seem possible for now, but it is possible to try to reduce the difference. 

Ono Shohei (JPN) in white judogi

This is what France has understood, the country that resembles Prince Charles of England, eternal heir to the throne. The French delegation won 14 golds. The difference, beyond the figures, lies in the real imbalance that exists between the women's and men's teams. The Frenchman women form a formidable squad that guides the Japanese and at times, surpasses them. The same cannot be said, far from it, of the men's team, which is experiencing an inexorable decline, waiting for its juniors to make the final leap in quality to settle among the best. 

France is on the heels of the third largest on the planet, Russia, with two fewer gold medals. Russia is like a submarine, it appears and disappears whenever it pleases, without anyone ever knowing what its real mission is. Sometimes it is expected and never arrives and other times it goes to the appointment and wins titles as if it were something very normal. It is a judo nation with exceptional judoka and is already baking the next generation of champions, whose first results are promising. 

Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO)

This is the dynasty that has reigned for years. Below is the court and there have been changes in the ranks. There are countries that have lost weight, judo greats that have not digested the pandemic, such as Brazil and South Korea. There are others that remain among the top five against all odds, such as Georgia and the Netherlands. There are countries with a huge projection, such as Israel, Kosovo, Belgium and Croatia, others that have reappeared after a long journey through the desert, such as Germany and Great Britain, others that come and go such as Italy and Spain and finally, countries with relative success that are in full swing, such as Mongolia and Uzbekistan. All of them, in one way or another, have been able to take advantage of specific moments, but what this means is that the competition is stronger than ever and it all points upwards. It also means that those who are not well prepared throughout the year pay dearly. 

Anna Maria Wagner (GER) in blue judogi and Madeleine Malonga (FRA)

The world championships are the best X-ray to understand this evolution. Japan passed all with 5 golds and a B team, as the big stars prepared for the Games. However, in that badly named team B there were world champions. It is the main difference between Japan and the rest, it is what defines its strength. 

Far behind, France, Russia, Georgia, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Belgium and Croatia obtained gold. At first glance it may seem like little, but if we look closely the final result reflects the trend. Japan dominates with a margin to spare and behind them the candidates to the throne accumulate, in case Japan one day puts the handbrake on. 

Abe Hifumi (JPN)

We can say the same about the Olympic Games. Japan extended its dominance to as yet unknown levels, with 9 gold medals. Kosovo confirmed its upward dynamic with two and France and Georgia confirmed their status with one gold medal each. The only big one that failed this time was Russia. 

It remains to be said that Africa is still a long way from the top, but it is progressing. South America has stagnated because Brazil has not shone this year. The United States is trying to build something with Los Angeles 2028 in mind and Canada is in very good health. From what has been seen in 2021, Europe is the best-armed continent, but Japan is enough on its own to maintain its status as the world leader of judo with an iron fist. 

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