Mohamed Meridja is the Education and Coaching Director of the IJF, a stalwart of the World Judo Tour and on this first day of competition the technical analysis is his.

“This is a very good first day with a lot of positive fights. The biggest surprise was the -48 kg Swedish judoka, still a junior and she’s competing alongside the big names of the event, standing toe to toe with them without fear or hesitation. She is agile and can fight both standing and on the ground showing a rounded judo education and the willingness to engage in a variety of situations. Her gold medal and the ability which led her to it are a message to all young ones that with hard work and attention to a range of techniques and skills, amazing results are possible at a very young age.

Eighteen year old Tara Babulfath (SWE) winning her quarter-final on the way to gold.

If I compare Baku with Paris, I can say we had more public at the last rendezvous but still there as a good atmosphere here and I am really enjoying the judo.

Daria Bilodid, now a very experienced athlete even though she is only 23, is not finding everything easy and this perhaps indicates concurrence of the standard. Junior judoka are taking big steps into senior arenas at the moment and today’s -57 kg category was a very mixed group.

Daria Bilodid en route to the podium in Baku.

Gjakova too won her way to the final but, again, it was not easy. She is the Olympic champion but regardless of previous achievements, no athlete can come here already certain that they will win. The Games is not far away and so there is a lot of work happening not just to win here but also to improve in the lead up to the Games and be ready on the big day.

Nora Gjakova's (KOS) semi-final win.

Within the Georgian men there seems to be some space now among the lighter weights. They fight as the Georgian’s always do, with flair, but it feels that there is something missing and these exciting techniques we have become so used to are not as frequent as they have been at other events. Eteri Liparteliani, though, was explosive today and actually showed a very identifiable Georgian style. She likes to throw for ippon and that’s what we like to see.

Liparteliani (GEO) was on good form today.

Lastly, Canadian judoka Christa Deguchi has really arrived here very strongly. She can bring power, technique and also top level kumi-kata. When she grips it makes an impact, it can be felt. The technique is applied smoothly with that starting point and it’s impressive. Despite not having to compete in the final, due to Gjakova’s injury, she was a worthy gold medallist and with a very positive style.”

The first day has concluded with 4 different flags being flown above the gold medallists. Day two begins at 10:30 a.m. local time and we can’t wait to get started again.

See also