"This is the first event of the season. We will have twelve this year, four of them in direct collaboration with the IJF. There is Portugal and then there will be Turkey, Azerbaijan and finally at the end of the year we will go to Japan, together for the first time. Each of the twelve competitions that we will organise are qualifiers for the Paralympic Games in Paris 2024. They are therefore all very important and we are happy to start the season here in Portugal."
For those unfamiliar with the IBSA system, it is actually quite similar to what is seen on the World Judo Tour. This alignment is also part of the substantive work that is carried out by the two organisations, the IJF and IBSA, to do everything to ensure that the athletes are in the best conditions to perform.
Thus, the IBSA has its own World Ranking List based on a points system which determines the seeds for the draw. Similarly, the Paralympic Ranking List, based on qualifying events, including this grand prix in Portugal, will determine who will qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
"We made important changes to the structure of Paralympic judo after the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. These changes impact the way our competitions work, in a very positive way. For us, it was important to clarify things and make them more understandable for the public, while guaranteeing everyone's safety.
We now have 2 categories, J1 and J2. J1 corresponds to blind or almost blind athletes, J2 to partially sighted athletes. We already saw that this redistribution has increased participation. We now have 363 athletes from 49 countries in the ranking list. During the last world championships in Baku, we had 281 registered competitors and in Paris we will have 148 qualified judoka. It is progressing and we are very happy about it.
It should also be emphasised that we respect perfect equality between men and women. In Paris, we will therefore have 16 categories, 8 for men and 8 for women, each divided into 4 J1 and 4 J2 sections. This equality does not make us forget that we must develop women's practice. It's something we're working on a lot, as well as developing the inclusion of young people."
All these developments have been made possible thanks to the collaboration between IBSA and the IJF, “The work we do together is very important. I think it is safe to say that both our organisations benefit from it. IJF President Marius Vizer is a strong supporter of Para-judo. He is not only a friend but also a friend of our whole community of athletes. The exchanges that we have with all the departments of the IJF are very important and have allowed us to progress a lot.
For example, with Lisa Allan's events department, Vladimir Barta's sports department or Daniel Lascau's refereeing department, we are moving forward together.
There are in essence some differences between the judo practised on the World Judo Tour and that of our competitions. For example, there is no shido for stepping out of the tatami and contests are started with the kumi-kata installed. These differences are linked to the special attention we give to our judoka. It is important to protect the J1 and J2 categories as much as possible, with increased attention for J1 but, in the end, we all do judo and that's what counts. In joint events with the IJF, we can say that there is no difference. Everyone is on an equal footing."
The approach of taking differences into account, so that they do not become a hindrance to personal and social development, while providing a fair environment for all is at the heart of the collaboration between IBSA and the IJF. It doesn't just work, it brings opportunities, smiles and happiness and that's what is important, because differences should never be a weakness but rather a strength.
More images of the IBSA Judo Grand Prix Portugal 2023 - CLICK HERE