Mohamed Meridja is the Education and Coaching Director of the IJF, ever-present on the World Judo Tour and on this third day of competition the technical analysis is his.

“The first athlete I would like to highlight is the Korean Joonhwan Lee. He spent his day moving fluidly and positively, attacking at an alarming rate and with great attention to kuzushi. At only 21 years old, he has an incredible grasp of the technical principles which should underpin every judoka’s high-level career. He lost out to Tato Grigalashvili, now a triple world champion, due to some te-waza mastery from the Georgian. Lee’s technical application and also conditioning make him a formidable opponent though and as he is so young, I feel sure his name will appear repeatedly in our results pages of the future.

Tato's (GEO) te-waza.

The Georgian has stunning te-waza, a really impressive feeling for movement, anticipating movement unbelievably fast. Tato won with a very dynamic style, even when under pressure and he arrived for every ‘hajime’ with full engagement. He now has such a huge bank of experience too and we can see that in his contest management.

An athlete we haven’t seen often on the WJT but who came to the tatami strongly was Somon Makhmadbekov (TJK). Despite his infrequent appearances, he arrived here more than ready, with a great instinct for counters and the ability to throw from any level, meaning that regardless of his posture he could always find an entry. This kind of agility requires confidence and although he may appear quiet and calm, that does not translate to a lack of confidence at all. He looks strong and seems to care about peaking for the Games; it was a very pointed performance.

Somon Makhmadbekov (TJK).

The German fighter, Cavelius, impressed me for the future. He has a presence and wants to engage with any and every opponent. We can see he is a hard working athlete. He needed the points and perhaps that became too important and ended up contributing to his loss but he engaged and made an effort to do the right things. Some athletes didn’t engage so fully, not wanting to risk the loss of points. I prefer to see someone fighting like Cavelius, to always seek high quality, positive judo.

Cavelius (GER), fully engaged against 2019 world champion Muki (ISR).

Casse of Belgium vs Arbuzov (AIN) looked like a real clash of Titans, fighting with power and with huge commitment. When Casse lost it was the case that one had to lose in the end, with such intensity and effort. Arbuzov fought on in the same vein and he deserved his spot on the podium.

Casse (BEL) vs Arbuzov (AIN).

Two PanAm athletes impressed me at the very beginning of the day in the -63 kg category. Del Toro Carvajal (CUB used an excellent seoi-otoshi combination against Olympic medallist Quadros to progress and then held her next opponent before losing to the number two seed. It was a spirited and determined outing. The other athlete was Barrios (VEN). She lost but is dangerous for whomever she comes up against.

Agbegnenou has everything and at the beginning of the day she looked fresh and ready and strong. She won at first also with her elite mentality and clever tactics. She beat Horikawa convincingly, employing both tachi-waza and ne-waza skills. Her loss was unexpected but she can teach everyone a thing or two about composure and professionalism, fighting to the very end but received every result with respect.

Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) throwing Kropska (POL) in the preliminaries.

Laura Fazliu (KOS) arrived here not just on her way to the Games, but to win at the worlds and she won all contests with positive scores. She is so determined and confident, culminating in her beating the number one in the group, Beauchemin-Pinard, for the bronze and knocking out the giant-slayer who defeated Agbegnenou. Any stress she may feel when facing the biggest names is well controlled, an important feature of any future champion.

Laura Fazliu, world bronze medallist.

Croatian Iva Overan works very well step by step, never getting ahead of herself. She lost to Clarisse and to Fazliu but I liked her strategy for only looking at what is in her immediate sphere. This workmanlike ethic will carry her a long way.

I will end with the Polish silver medallist Szymanska. We don’t see her so often or rather we don’t notice her too much but when she reached the semi-final I finally saw how excellent she really is. She has been working hard to blend in and gently find her way without attracting too much attention but we could really see her improvement and the final block is a deserved reward. Now I wonder why I didn’t notice her before. Her detailed technical ability is delivered without a show. Her style made me happy, a very positive approach to the high level, using ne-waza in the best way possible.”

Szymanska (POL) and her devastating ne-waza.
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