Jose Manuel Cortes (ESP) is now an IJF Referee Supervisor, having completed an exemplary refereeing career, including outstanding work at the Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Today, for day one of the World Judo Masters 2023, the technical analysis is his.

“Usually everybody waits for good results from Japan but on this first day it seemed, this time, that the more special moments came from Mongolia, UAE and Italy. Mongolia really came under the spotlight! There was a 7th place and a final at 60kg for Mongolia, a bronze at -48kg and a final block contest at -66kg too.

Ariunbold Enkhtaivan (MGL), -60kg silver in Budapest

Today there were so many surprises. I think about it like this; in the athletics 100m Olympic final you know who the medals will come from, like perhaps from any 3 in the top 5, their normal times are recorded and expected, but in judo it’s really not the same. The top 36 can produce many contrasting dynamics and surprises and so many pre-conceived ideas can change in an instant. Number 4 is not necessarily going to beat the world number 25. For example, we saw Olympic silver medallist Margvelashvili (GEO) lose to Emomali (TJK) and with nice technique.

There were also many golden scores but because the level can be so similar from judoka to judoka, perhaps it is not so unexpected. Still, these contests were exciting and full of positive judo. The difference between all those in the top 36 can be so small. Ranking points split them but it’s not always such an accurate indicator of who can come out on top on any given day.

It was a big surprise to see Laborde (USA) fighting at such a high level throughout the day; another athlete not among the top seeds. She was on the limit of the rules, always just inside, very clever. She was one of many who showed the diversity of our sport in terms of both nationality and also age, with 33 years behind her.

At -52kg we had the best possible final, between Krasniqi (KOS) who rarely arrives anywhere without the best preparation, and Amandine Buchard (FRA). France then put Cysique in her -57kg final too, with some of the most powerful judo of the day. Her win against Funakubo (JPN) in the semi-final was pure mastery, not just with regard to technical judo but also the mental aptitude to fight fearlessly ahead of such a formidable opponent. As has become usual on the World Judo Tour, the French women did not disappoint.

My last observations are for two of the world’s greatest technicians, with different CVs but each with much publicity and a lot of expectation. The first is Denis Vieru’s resurgence after an inconsistent year. He was precise, logical and and robust throughout, just the way the spectators like to see him and he really deserved to be in the final, showing everyone why he is still the world number one.

Finally, the amazing fight between Takato (JPN) and Kim (KOR) was incredible to see with polished action from both athletes. They showed physical capability, gymnastic qualities and focus but in the end it was the transition to juji-gatame from the Korean which took the win, leaving Takato fighting for bronze, which he won cleanly. This contest was between two true masters and brought goosebumps to our arms!”

Day 1 has already come to a close and the level has been set; a very high level that would be difficult to match if it wasn’t for the same calibre of athlete in the draw for tomorrow. We can’t wait for the opening rounds of the middleweight categories and look forward to you joining us via

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