The Junior World Championships 2017, the fifth and penultimate Judo World Championships of the year, will introduce judo’s brightest talents to the world this week as Zagreb plays host to the five-day competition at the Dom Sportova.
Following cadet, senior, veteran and kata versions of the World Championships, the leading u21 judoka on the planet have descended on the familiar IJF World Judo Tour destination of Croatia's capital city to begin their ascent to stardom and a path which could lead to senior success in the near future and a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The sixth and final Worlds Championships for 2017 comes in the form of the revived Openweight World Championships which takes centre stage in Marrakech, Morocco from 11-12 November.
Croatia hosted its annual Zagreb Grand Prix at the end of September and now the leading European federation shows its incredible capacity and major event expertise by staging the country's first World Judo Championships.
Official draw for#JudoZagreb2017
The draw took place on Tuesday afternoon at the Panorama hotel opposite the competition venue. The impressive statistics showed that 590 judoka from 83 nations will chase world glory with a host of starlets from the IJF World Judo Tour among an appealing entry list.
IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER (centre) made the opening address at the draw
"Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, dear guests, officials, I have the pleasure to welcome you all to Zagreb for the Junior World Championships," said Mr. VIZER.
"I would like to thank the Croatian Judo Federation for hosting this competition and showing us great hospitality and commitment to the development of judo in this country, across Europe and throughout the world. I thank Dr. Sanda CORAK, Croatian Judo Federation President, and all of her excellent team for their hard work."
Mr. Jean-Luc ROUGE (far right), IJF General Secretary, said: "I wish you all a warm welcome to Zagreb and wish you and your team the best of luck here in Croatia."
Dr. Sanda CORAK, Croatian Judo Fedeation President, greeted the delegations, IJF officials and guests
Dr. Sanda CORAK, Croatian Judo Federation President, said: "Ladies and gentlemen, IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER, it's a privilege for me to be able to welcome you all here to Zagreb. We recently staged a Grand Prix here and it's a great pleasure for us to see you all here again for the first World Judo Championships ever to be held in Croatia.
"Zagreb is a beautiful and safe city with many things to see and I hope you have time to visit our city and our country. I wish you all good luck for the competition."
Former Cadet World Championships silver medallist Tihea TOPOLOVEC (left) followed the draw with Croatian star Barbara MATIC
IJF EXECUTIVE MEETING HELD ON THE EVE OF #JudoZagreb2017
IJF Executive Committee meeting at Westin Hotel, Zagreb
The fruitful discussion at the Westin Hotel in Zagreb featured the IJF Executive Committee members and was opened by IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER and Croatian Judo Federation President Dr. Sanda CORAK.
Mr. VIZER said: 'Thank you Sanda for your friendship and hospitality and for suppprting us with these Junior World Championships in partnership with the IJF."
Dr. CORAK said: "Dear Marius, dear IJF colleagues and friends, we are very happy to be hosting this Junior Worlds Championships and this IJF Executive Committee meeting. I believe that because of our experience that everything is going to be ok. There is a good atmosphere here and together with IJF we can develop judo more and more in Croatia."
The rules for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification period were discussed at length along with the IJF's functions and countless projects as well as a variety of operational amendments to continue to propel the sport forward.
IJF PRESIDENT WELCOMED BY CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER
IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER, Executive Committee colleagues and Croatian Judo representatives were welcomed by Ms. Janica KOSTELIC, four-time Olympic alpine skiing champion and now Croatia's Secretary of State for Education, Science and Sport
Mr. Marius VIZER, IJF President, along with colleagues from the IJF Executive Committee were welcomed by the Croatian Prime Minister Mr. Andrej PLENKOVIC.
In a special reception, the Prime Minister hosted the IJF delegates and Dr. Sanda CORAK and Croatian star and former Junior World Championships winner Barbara MATIC.
Ms. Janica KOSTELIC was joined by Croatia's Prime Minister Mr. Andrej PLENKOVICto welcome the special guests
"I would like to thank the Croatian Prime Minister Mr. Andrej Plenkovic and the Croatian Government for their hospitality and warm welcome", said Mr. Vizer.
TEDDY RINER RE-ELECTED AS PRESIDENT OF IJF ATHLETES COMMISSIONAHEAD OF #JudoAbuDhabi2017 NEXT WEEK
Nine-time world champion Teddy RINER (FRA) has been officially re-elected as the President if the IJF Athlete Commission.
The IJF Education and Coaching Commission revealed the news on Tuesday in the final step of formalising the new and complete group of athletes for the Commission for the 2017-2020 period.
The new-look Commission now consists of Antonia MOREIRA (ANG), Georgii ZANTARAIA (UKR), Ebinuma MASASHI (JPN), Natalie GALEA (AUS) and Tiago CAMILO (BRA) who were all elected at the World Championships in Budapest.
Teddy RINER (above), Kayla HARRISON (USA), Ivan NIFONTOV (RUS) and Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS) were all nominated and approved for the Commission by the IJF.
RINER, CAMILO and HARRISON all retained their places on the Commission for a new term.
Cadet Pan American champion and Junior Pan American champion Laura FERREIRA (BRA) is one of the early favourite to win world gold on day one. The 17-year-old from Santos, Sao Paulo, won five events in a row before a surprise seventh-place finish at the Cadet Worlds in August and the Brazilian will be relishing her second attempt at World Championships glory. Junior Asian Championships winner KUBOI Nina (JPN) is only 16 years old but won all of her contests at her continental championships by ippon and will be pushing for honours while former Cadet World Championships bronze medallist Lidia MARIN (ROU) and Junior Asian Championships bronze medallist JO Son Hyang (PRK) could enter the medal picture.
Two-time senior European Cup winner Marusa STANGAR (SLO) is one of a handful of judoka who have already experienced IJF World Judo Tour competition. The 19-year-old made her Grand Prix debut in the same city two weeks ago and went the distance in a losing but credible effort against world number 31 Alexandra POP (ROU). Slovenia's great -48kg hope took silver at the last Junior Worlds in 2015 but could go one better in 2017. Former Junior Asian Championships winner UMEKITA Mai (JPN) stepped up to senior competition in February to capture silver at the Sofia European Open and will bring her style of ippon judo to the -48kg category. Turkish teenager Melisa CAKMAKLI won bronze at the Junior World Championships on 2014 in Fort Lauderdale and returns in 2017 at the age of 19 with her sights on gold. This year the judoka from Imranl, Sivas (TUR), has fought seven times on the international stage with four senior events and three u21 competitions and has the experience and form to star on the opening day.
Junior European Championships bronze medallist Anais MOSDIER (FRA) finished fifth at the Paris Grand Slam at the start of the year and took seventh-place at the Tbilisi Grand Prix shortly afterwards. The 18-year-old Frenchwoman won bronze at the Cadet Worlds in 2015 and will be confident of medalling at the Junior World Championships for the first time having finished seventh at the last edition in 2015.
Tashkent Grand Prix winner Betina TEMELKOVA (ISR) was installed as one of the faces of the competition after clinching IJF World Judo Tour gold in Uzbekistan last time out. The 20-year-old exceeded all expectations to win in Tashkent just over a week ago and will be the judoka everyone will measure themselves against in the -52kg category on day two in Zagreb. Dsseldorf Grand Prix winner ABE Uta (JPN) only turned 17 in July and will be one of the youngest judoka in the competition. The Tokyo Grand Slam silver medallist is the younger sister of world champion and fellow prodigy ABE Hifumi and is the favourite for -52kg gold.
Former Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix bronze medallist BISHRELT Khorloodoi (MGL) is another judoka with her share of IJF World Judo Tour action under her belt. The 19-year-old went 1-1 at the World Championships in August and will be an entirely different proposition on a level playing field such as the Junior World Championships.
Former London European Cup bronze medallist Chelsie GILES (GBR) has seen action at the European Open, Grand Prix, European Championships, Junior European Cup and the Junior European Championships in 2017 but the Junior Worlds is her main target for the year and the British Judo Centre of Excellence talent should improve on her fifth-place from 2015.
Reigning Junior World champion FUNAKUBO Haruka (JPN) is back to defend her title in a category which hosts Croatia will be looking for a medal return through former Cadet World Championship silver medallist Tihea TOPOLOVEC (CRO). FUNAKUBO, 19, has won the Sofia European Open this year and took silver at the All Japan Championships in Fukuoka while TOPOLOVEC, 19, has tested herself at the senior level and from those four outings has a bronze medal from the Sarajevo European Cup to show for her efforts.
Former Junior European Championships winner Pauline STARKE (GER) competes at a World Championships for the first time in her career and could make an immediate impact while 16-year-old Junior Asian Championships winner KIM Jisu (KOR) could convert her continental supremacy into Worlds honours on day two.
Two-time Grand Prix bronze medallist Lubjana PIOVESANA (GBR) will be one of the judoka to watch in Zagreb and, like many of her rivals, during the next Olympic cycle. The 20-year-old uchi-mata specialist finished fifth at the last Junior Worlds in 2015 but has won two unexpected Grand Prix medals in recent months and will be a difficult assignment for any judoka in the -63kg category. Junior Asian Championships winner HAN Hee ju (KOR) has been afforded a string of starts for her powerhouse nation at IJF World Judo Tour events dating back to her debut at the Tokyo Grand Slam in 2012 at the age of 15. HAN won bronze at the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix in 2015 and makes her Junior Worlds Championships bow having fought at the Cadet Worlds in 2013 and senior Worlds in 2017.
World number 11 Andreja LESKI (SLO) is a three-time Grand Prix bronze medallist and Baku Grand Slam silver medallist and will hope to sign off from the junior age group in style before focusing on her bid for Tokyo 2020 qualification which starts next year.
World number three and Rio 2016 Olympian Elvismar RODRIGUEZ (VEN) is arguably the most accomplished female judoka in the competition. The 20-year-old, who has been financially supported to compete in Croatia by the IJF, is now based in Tokyo where she trains full-time at Tokai University. The Venezuelan has never won a medal at a World Championships but her first, and the first of many, should arrive in Zagreb.
World number 17 Aleksandra SAMARDZIC (BIH) will compete at the Junior World Championships for the fourth time this week as she makes one final attempt to win a medal before completing her transition to the senior level. The 20-year-old is a two-time Grand Slam bronze medallist and made her Grand Prix breakthrough in Zagreb a year ago with a courageous bronze medal win. SAMARDZIC went 1-1 at the senior World Championships in August and will certainly finish with a winning record in Zagreb and a place among the medallists.
Former Junior World silver medallist AOYAGI Remi (JPN) returns to the world's top premier competition for juniors and will present a major medal threat for Japan who have expectedly entered a full team of 20 judoka.
Cancun Grand Prix bronze medallist Karen LEON (VEN) also happens to be the Junior Pan American Championships winner. The 19-year-old, who is ranked 33rd in the world, was seventh at the Zagreb Grand Prix in her last competition and returns to the same country, city and venue with realistic hopes of earning her first World Championships medal. The winner could still emerge from the Asian duo of Junior Asian Championships silver medallist SON Jeongyeon (KOR) and All Japan Junior Championships gold medallist UMEZU Shiyu (JPN).
Eliannis AGUILAR (CUB) fought at the senior World Championships in Budapest and the 20-year-old Cuban is part of a new generation of judoka coming through the ranks for a country who have underperformed on the IJF World Judo Tour in recent years. Dsseldorf Grand Prix bronze medallist SONE Akira (JPN) is the reigning Cadet world champion but has skipped that event this year to concentrate on the Junior version and is a heavy favourite for +78kg gold. SONE, 17, took silver at the Tokyo Grand Slam last year and could be a key judoka for her country in both the individual and mixed team competition before another expected start at the final Grand Slam of the year in her homeland. Junior European champion Romane DICKO (FRA) helped the senior French team to Mixed Team bronze in Budapest and her experience of the format could be vital as she aims for two gold medals in Zagreb.
Junior Asian Championships winner Bauyrzhan NARBAYEV (KAZ) is a highly-rated judoka and the ashi-waza expert could deliver for Kazakhstan while Junior Pan American Championships winner Bruno WATANABE (BRA) will look to his seoi-nage to try and make a run towards to the medal podium on day one. Oceania Championships winner Bryan JOLLY (AUS) is a senior contender at home but has to prove himself at the Junior world level in Croatia before stepping up to the senior stage full-time in 2018. JOLLY is one of his country's top prospects and could produce the best result for his continent if he can make a strong start in Zagreb.
Junior Asian Championships winner YANG Yung Wei (TPE) is a name that may be familiar to judo's great aficionados. Former Qingdao Grand Prix bronze medallist, 20, finished fifth at the Antalya Grand Prix this year and has arrived in Zagreb full of confidence for his first and last Junior World Championships as he will have to make the transition to the senior stage in 2018. The spotlight will fall on Cadet World Championships winner KOGA Genki (JPN) who competes at his second World Championships in the sport. KOGA, 18, is the son of 1992 Olympic champion and three-time world champion Koga Toshihiko, and has spoken of his desire to be part of Japan's Tokyo 2020 Olympic team.
Rio 2016 Olympian and Oceania Championships winner Joshua KATZ (AUS), Junior Pan American Championships winner Robson PENNA (BRA) and Cancun Grand Prix bronze medallist Jorre VERSTRAETEN (BEL) will also expect to be in the medal shake-up in one of the deepest categories in the competition.
Two-time and reigning Junior Asian Championships winner Artyom SHTURBABIN (UZB) will experience a World Championships for the first time in Croatia and will hope not to be overawed by the occasion. SHTURBABIN, 20, has only competed outside of Uzbekistan twice previously and will become a major factor if he can win his opening contest to settle his nerves and establish his rhythm in the competition. Junior Pan American Championships winner Daniel CARGNIN (BRA) has already faced some of the world's top judoka and biggest competitions but is still eligible for the Junior Worlds stage as he is only 19 years old. The 2015 Junior Worlds bronze medallist has mixed it with big names at the Tokyo Grand Slam, Paris Grand Slam and the Tbilisi Grand Prix and will now be determined to show the world that he is one of the best prospects in the -66kg weight category.
World number five and European champion Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) is without doubt the most lauded male judoka in the competition. The 20-year-old Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist finished fifth at the senior Worlds in August and followed that by winning the Junior European Championships. The Azeri ace, who is counting down the days until the next year World Championships in his native Baku in 2018, took bronze at the 2015 Junior Worlds but is widely tipped to remain undefeated in Croatia.
The second Junior Worlds bronze medallist in the -73kg category in 2015 will also compete in Zagreb. Martin HOJAK (SLO), who finished fifth at the Tashkent Grand Prix a week ago, has been plugging away on the IJF World Judo Tour to work his way up to 33rd place in the world. The Slovenian has placed three times at a Grand Prix but is still searching for his first medal at that level and Junior World Championships honours may be just what he needs to give him a lift to spur him on to senior medals before the 2017 season draws to a close.
Former Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Muso SOBIROV (UZB) will look to upset his more noted adversaries. The 20-year-old Junior Asian Championships winner enters the World Championships stage for the first time but has nothing to fear having beaten HEYDAROV and HOJAK before and it was achieved in no less than back-to-back contests at the Tashkent Grand Prix a year ago.
Rio 2016 Olympian and former Almaty Grand Prix bronze medallist Didar KHAMZA (KAZ) will be medal contender for Kazakhstan. KHAMZA, 20, who won his first contest at the Olympics before losing to eventual silver medallist Rustam ORUJOV (AZE), was fifth at the last Junior World Championships and will surely come away with a medal this time.
Junior Pan American Championships winner Tiago PINHO (BRA) lost his first contest at the last Junior World Championships in 2015 and will be motivated to atone for that display with a medal-winning performance in Zagreb. The 20-year-old, who has a particularly strong tai-otoshi, is a member of the Judo Sogipa academy in Porto Alegre which is also home to world champion and double Olympic bronze medallist Mayra AGUIAR (BRA).
Scottish judoka and former Glasgow European Open bronze medallist Stuart MCWATT (GBR) finished seventh in Croatia on his Grand Prix debut in Zagreb at the end of September. The 20-year-old could be a factor at -81kg and may be be the answer for Britain in a category that has usually served them well as MCWATT hopes to be the long-term replacement for double world bronze medallist Euan BURTON (GBR) who is now part of the Judo Scotland High Performance coaching team.
Junior Asian Championships gold medallist Rakhmatullobek FARKHODOV (TJK) encounters a World Championships for the first time and the competition will also be new territory for Junior European Championships winner Tim GRAMKOW (GER).
Junior Asian Championships winner NAGAI Koshi (JPN) took silver at the All Japan Junior Championships recently but gets the nod for Japan for the penultimate World Championships of the year. NAGAI, 18, will be fighting outside of Asia for the second time but that's rarely an issue for the Japanese who travel better than any other nation.
Asian Championships bronze medallist Mukhammadkarim KHURRAMOV (UZB) has faced top level opposition on the IJF World Judo Tour including Tashkent Grand Prix winner Komronshokh USTOPIRIYON (TJK) and Ekaterinburg Grand Slam winner NAGASAWA Kenta (JPN). The 20-year-old former Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist has all the tools to capture a place on the medal podium for Uzbekistan.
Senior African Championships winner Oussama Mahmoud SNOUSSI (TUN) is a fully fledged member of the IJF World Judo Tour and should at least place as he looks to come away with a Junior Worlds medal at his third and final attempt.
Two-time Continental Open winner and former Junior European champion Aaron FARA (AUT) is a judoka aiming to win his first Worlds medal in Croatia. FARA, 20, who finished seventh at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam in the summer, holds wins over former world champion Maxim RAKOV (KAZ) and two-time Grand Slam winner Martin PACEK (SWE) and could be a front-runner this weekend.
Junior Asian Championships bronze medallist ODKHUU Tsetsentsengel (MGL) has been on the radar of Tenri University near Nara, Japan. The 18-year-old finished at the last Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix in 2016 under the watchful eye of Tenri University instructor and former world champion ANAI Takamasa (JPN) who travelled to Mongolia just to watch the teenager.
Tenri's 1984 Olympic champion Mr. HOSOKAWA Shinji will be in Croatia in his role as an IJF Education and Coaching Commission member and member of the IJF Coordination Committee of Directors.
Zagreb Grand Prix silver medallist HEGYI Stephan (AUT) fought the world's number one judoka the last time he graced a competition tatami. The 19-year-old faced French heavyweight icon and man-mountain Teddy RINER (FRA) and found himself in the incredible position of producing a more spirited and gutsy display than many of the nine-time world champion's rivals in his seven-year, 138-fight winning-streak. HEGYI defeated KAMIKAWA Daiki (JPN), the last man to defeat RINER, in the semi-final as he proved to be insurmountable for the Japanese who saw Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist HARASAWA Hisayoshi (JPN) also beaten by the young Austrian at the World Championships in Budapest. The 19-year-old Junior European Championships silver medallist has also entered November's Openweight World Championships
Cancun Grand Prix bronze medallist Francisco SOLIS (CHI), Junior Pan American Championships winner Arthur BARBOZA (BRA) and former EYOF bronze medallist Gela ZAALISHVILI (GEO) will all want to test themselves against HEGYI and plot a path to Junior Worlds glory before the Mixed Team event closes the competition on Sunday 22 October.
Wednesday 18 October
10:00 Preliminaries on three mats
17:00 Final block on two mats
Junior Women: -44kg, -48kg
Junior Men: -55kg, -60kg
Thursday 19 October
10:00 Preliminaries on three mats
17:00 Final block on two mats
Junior Women: -52kg, -57kg
Junior Men: -66kg, -73kg
Friday 20 October
10:00 Preliminaries on three mats
16:00 Final block on two mats
Junior Women: -63kg, -70kg
Junior Men: -81kg, -90kg
Saturday 21 October
10:00 Preliminaries on three mats
16:00 Final block on two mats
Junior Women: -78kg, +78kg
Junior Men: -100kg, +100kg
Sunday - 22 October
Mixed Team Competition
11:00 Preliminaries on three mats
17:00 Final block on two mats
Location: Dom Sportova