Under the Portuguese sun and in the heat of early October, Japan came out in force with a high-performance team that took advantage of its freshness. A month ago, European competitors were already hard at work at the European Championships, while Japanese athletes were preparing in the isolation of Japanese universities and dojos. Often unranked before the competition, the judoka from the Land of the Rising Sun were not the best known. They had not been studied as much as many of their global counterparts. They are now known and studied and we know that we will have to count on them in the years to come. We can no longer say that we didn't know!
If the Japanese domination was impressive and gave balm to the heart of all lovers of beautiful techniques and effective transition to ne-waza, the other great nations of judo had diverse destinies. Azerbaijan has long been a sure value among cadets and juniors, as it is among seniors. Seeing the Azeri delegation at the top of the ranking behind Japan is therefore not really a surprise. What we can note is that Azerbaijan has a real vision of development and this begins as soon as judoka are old enough to compete at the international level. A future senior champion stays in the high-level pot for years before blossoming. There is no room for improvisation and chance. It is here and now that we build the future and Azerbaijan understands that very well.
The work carried out in Italy is very instructive in this respect. How wonderful this young and determined team is to follow. During the European Championships, the results of the transalpine judoka were already remarkable and they are again here in Portugal even if some judoka, like Bright Maddaloni Nosa, did not manage to win the world trophy among juniors.
Other nations appear at the top of the ranking, although the results are not those hoped for. Here we can mention France, Brazil and even Georgia, which we are used to seeing at the best parties. There is no danger for these countries, but an awareness will undoubtedly have an impact on future sports policies of these countries.
Other delegations will leave Odivelas with the feeling of a job well done and above all with interesting benchmarks for the future of judo in their country. The silver medal of Jack Yonezuka (USA) and that of Youssry Samy (EGY) are among the most significant. Two continents, Pan America and Africa, are building the future of judo.
In total, almost half of the countries engaged here were represented in the different final blocks. This diversity is remarkable at this level of competition. Judo is developing in all directions and the gap is closing between the delegations who are showing great professionalism, increasingly. The 2023 junior season ends with a great fanfare in Portugal. The senior season is in full swing and many of the judoka present here will soon be in the deep end of the World Judo Tour. Remember the names of the junior world medallists, we will talk about them again soon.