Tokyo 2020: All you need to know about judo
Date: August 25, 2021
Three days of judo at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will get underway on Friday (27 August) at the home of judo, with 13 gold medals up for grabs across men’s and women’s events.
Live coverage from the legendary Nippon Budokan will be available at www.ibsajudo.sport
Pictures will be available every day for editorial use by clicking here.
Women’s up to 57kg
Junko Hirose leads the Japanese charge for medals as the bronze medallist from her debut at Rio 2016.
Five years on and the 30-year-old has gone onto to top that performance with silver at the World Championships, as well as podium finishes at Grand Prix and the Asian Para Games.
It was Turkey’s Zeynep Celik who Hirose lost out on gold to at the Worlds and who continues to be one of the top fighters in the category, demonstrated by her top ranked status.
Brazil’s Lucia Araujo, the Paralympic silver medallist, and World Championships bronze medallists Parvina Samandarova of Uzbekistan and China’s Zhilian Lin could also be in the mix.
Women’s up to 70kg
Featuring one of the sport’s most compelling rivalries, the women’s up to 70kg at Tokyo 2020 is set to be gripping.
Mexican Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba could go head-to-head with Brazil’s world title holder Alana Martins Maldonado once more. At Rio 2016 the pair faced-off in the final with Ruvalcaba claiming the gold – and breaking a thousand Brazilian hearts at the same time.
They have since met at IBSA Judo Grand Prix and another qualifier for Tokyo 2020, with Ruvalcaba winning all three clashes. But Ruvalcaba is coping well with the demands and expectations:
“The pressure is the same. Ultimately, athletes always want to be medallists and to do their best and for me, it is the same. I am focused on getting on the podium once more.
“These Games are very different, first of all, because I am the Paralympic champion and also because Japan is the place where my sport was born and for me this is very important.
“I really like Japan, I really like the ideology of the country and the sport. The sport has taught me a lot of things and for me this was an extra motivation to be here.”
Women’s up to 48kg
France’s Sandrine Martinet is the potential headline act having moved down to the weight category after winning gold in the up to 52kg at Rio 2016.
Her historic gold came after two silvers and fifth-place finish at London 2012. In the lower category Martinet has already achieved a bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships, and a European title. Martinet’s Paralympic debut in the up to 48kg will come after she carried the flag for France at the Opening Ceremony on Tuesday (24 August).
“To be here, to compete here and to carry the flag here is especially meaningful because this is a judo country,” The Frenchwoman said. “Each Paralympic Games is different. What’s more, I changed my weight category so it’s a new challenge every time and a great chance to fight and search for that gold medal.
“There is no pressure at all. I will do my best and I hope that I will win. It’s a pleasure doing judo and that’s the most important for me. There is no stress, I just want to do the sport.”
The biggest threats for Martinet will come from Azerbaijan’s Worlds silver medallist Shahana Hajiyeva and Turkey’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Ecem Tasin.
Women’s over 70kg
Much has changed in the women’s heavyweights since Rio 2016. None of the medallists from five years ago will return to the mat. Instead the competition will feature some exciting debuts.
China’s world champion Hongyu Wang stepped onto the international tatami for the first time at the 2018 World Championships, winning gold.
It is a similar story for Italy’s Carolina Costa, who claimed bronze at the same competition. Costa’s judo pedigree is hard to match – the Italian comes to Tokyo 2020 has the daughter of an Olympian and a judo grandmaster.
Costa also has extra motivation to go for the Paralympic podium, in memory of her father who passed away when was she was aged 11.
“He would be so proud of the athlete that I became,” Costa said. “My father was a grandmaster and it would have meant so much to him that I made it to the Paralympics. He is always my point of reference.
“He taught me to have courage, honesty, humility and a lot of strength.”
Brazil’s Meg Emmerich, the world ranked No.2 and 2018 Worlds bronze medallist, is also a key face to watch on her debut.
Women’s up to 63kg
Ukraine’s Irina Husieva will aim to improve on her silver medal from Rio 2016 in the up to 63kg.
Three-time European champion Nicolina Pernheim also lines-up for her fourth Paralympics.
The USA’s Liana Mutia is another face to look out for. The 22-year-old makes her Paralympic debut as the Pan American champion, and recently grabbed bronze at the last IBSA Judo Grand Prix in June.
Women’s up to 52kg
With Paralympic champion Sandrine Martinet moving down a category, the women’s up to 52kg will be even more open.
Canada’s Priscilla Gagne will carry the hopes of her country in judo on her shoulders as the World Championships bronze medallist, Pan American title-holder and world No.2.
Nipping at her heels are the rest of the podium finishers from Rio 2016. German judo legend, the Athens 2004 and London 2012 champion, Ramona Brussig, collected silver last time around.
Algeria’s Cherine Abdellaoui and Uzbekistan’s Sevinch Salieva shared third place on the podium.
Men’s up to 100kg
Competing at his sixth Paralympics is the most decorated judoka of all time, Brazil’s Antonio Tenorio.
Making his debut at Atlanta 1996 with gold, the Brazilian went on to claim a further three golds, one bronze and one silver meaning he has won a medal at every edition he has competed at.
Tenorio is still the world No.3 at 50-years-old. In Tokyo he could meet the likes of Great Britain’s Worlds bronze medallist Christopher Skelley.
Men’s up to 60kg
Widely regarded as demonstrating some of the most beautiful judo skills and techniques is Romania’s Alexandru Bologa.
Bologa claimed bronze on his debut at Rio 2016 at the age of 19 and has gone on to become a world beater. He has successfully overcome Uzbekistan’s Paralympic champion Sherzod Namozov at Grand Prix, most recently in May this year.
Kazakhstan’s world champion Olzhas Orazalyuly and Worlds silver medallist Ishak Ouldkoudier of Algeria are also key faces to watch.
Men’s up to 66kg
Ukraine’s Davyd Khorava is hunting for a return to the top of the Paralympic podium in Tokyo.
The London 2012 gold medallist picked up bronze at Rio 2016 and is the current European champion and world No.1.
Azerbaijan’s Namag Abasli and Georgia’s Giorgi Gamjashvilli are the No.2 and No.3, respectively, heading into the competition.
Men’s up to 73kg
A stacked field in the men’s up to 73kg will feature all but one of the medallists from Rio 2016 and the 2018 World Championships.
Returning title-holder Ramil Gasimov of Azerbaijan and bronze medallists Nikolai Kornhass of Germany and Uzbekistan’s Feruz Sayidov are set to dazzle.
Sayidov is the world champion whilst Kornhass is the holder of the European gold and the world No.1.
Men’s up to 81kg
‘The Judo Man’ – Paralympic champion Eduardo Avila Sanchez – is another Mexican medal hope alongside Lenia Ruvalcaba in the women’s up to 70kg.
Avila Sanchez missed the 2018 World Championships having sustained a serious back injury. At the time the 35-year-old thought it was the end of his career but he made a successful comeback in 2019, going on to win gold at the International Qualifier and then the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games.
In his absence South Korea’s Rio 2016 silver medallist Jung Min Lee took the world crown and became the top ranked judoka.
Azerbaijan’s Huseyn Rahimli, the Russian Paralympic Committee’s Ruslan Albagachiev, and France’s Nathan Petit – the rest of the podium finishers from 2018 – will also want to claim the gold.
Men’s up to 90kg
Revealing he has “mixed feelings’ about his silver medal from Rio 2016, Ukraine’s world champion Oleksandr Nazarenko is clear about what his goal is for Tokyo 2020.
“I wanted to win, but as we say, it’s better to have a medal than to not. But now I want to go one step higher and win a gold medal this time.”
Amongst those challenging the Ukrainian for the top spot will be Worlds bronze medallists Vahid Nouri of Iran and Great Britain’s Elliot Stewart, Uzbekistan’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Shukhrat Boboev and French world No.3 Helios Latchoumanaya.
Men’s over 100kg
South Korea’s title-holder from the up to 100kg, Gwan Geun Choi, has announced that Tokyo 2020 will be his last Paralympics.
Choi will bow out after more than a decade and two Paralympic golds. He will therefore be even more determined to achieve the perfect end to his career.
But Iranian world champion Mohammadreza Kheirollahzadeh may have something to say about that.
Azerbaijan’s national favourite, and Judo Hall of Fame inductee, Ilham Zakiyev also remains a contender after three Paralympic medals and a World Championships bronze from 2018.
Brazil’s Wilians Araujo will be aiming to improve on his silver medal from five years ago.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic judo competition runs from 27-29 August.