The Olympic Ranking List for judoka is competitive, analysed and monitored in fine detail by federations, athletes and onlookers under a virtual microscope throughout the qualification period. During the same period, though, there is another list, just as competitive but less well understood by the judo public, that of the referees.

Just a few days ago the referees’ ranking list was temporarily frozen and final selections were made for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. For the referees, only 16 of whom will have the honour of officiating at the Olympics, another 12 at the Paralympics, the percentages are tiny and the differences between success and disappointment are balanced on the sharpest edge.

From their beginnings as practising judoka, adding the refereeing element through years of study, repetition, challenge and the values-bound desire to constantly improve, a referee can spend anywhere between 25 and 40 years in judo before refereeing at the Olympic Games can be possible. This is a lifetime of experience which could only be facilitated with a foundation of passion and respect.

The IJF is proud of all the referees and the work they have delivered. It is not easy by any means and to have come this far is truly incredible. In Paris, at this year’s grand slam, the names of referees were chanted through the Bercy arena and reliving moments like those as the Olympic Games commences, will be spine-tingling.

The message to the IJF referees is one of congratulations but, even more so, thank you!

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