World Championships preview
Realistic medal expectations for Canada
It was great to see Teddy Riner shine and make a comeback in Montreal. However, as far as we know, he won’t be present at the blockbuster event this year: World Championships in Tokyo. He carefully picks his road to the Olympic Games next year. Riner is popular outside judo and an icon in French sports, but there is still enough to look out for in Tokyo. In fact, each category has its own stories, and obviously we look forward to the Canadian story that might evolve in a magical fairytale. It’s a journey that started years ago. Starting from day 2 until day 6 Canadians will battle for a medal, perhaps a miracle, but realistic to forecast another medal for Canada in the 2019 edition of the World Championships.
With four athletes in the top 10, nine in the top 20 and 14 in the top 50, Canada built out its potential. Compared to last year, same date in August, only Deguchi was in the top 10 (8), six athletes in the top 20. Still, top eight doesn’t count for the ambitions, yes in the long run, but not in Tokyo. Multiple medals are possible and it’s most realistic to zoom in the women’s U57kg category with Christa Deguchi and Jessica Klimkait.
The Competition in U57kg
Last year’s world ranking leader Sumiya Dorjsuren took a break and won’t be in Tokyo. Yoshida still at her best at defending world champion. Nekoda Smythe Davis, not her best this year but coming back, but from an objective point of view both Canadian women should be stronger.
Kosovo’s Nora Gjakova is still a threat, at least for Klimkait. Brazil’s Rafaela Silva is getting better and added the Pan American Games title in August, but she her form varies. We expect her to be sharp in Tokyo though. The Canadian girls can beat her and Klimkait is the one to do it as they might be in the same pool as 4-5 or the seeding list. Germany’s Theresa Stoll will be better. She focused on her study previously and lost to both Klimkait and Deguchi and is battling for Tokyo with her sister and new kids Pauline Starke who won European bronze in June; she is a dark horse. We expect Stoll to be back at her best as she is an intelligent fighter and Christa Deguchi might face her as numbers 2 and 7 of the IJF World Ranking will cross paths in the quarter finals.
Canada is able to win two medals in U57kg but there is also some potential threat outside the seeded players, so you got to be a little lucky in the draw and a Canadian semi-final might be the case on day three.
Telma Monteiro (POR) knows how to peak at the most important tournaments. Taipei’s Lien can outperform in ”her” Japan, where she lives and trains. Kim Jandi (KOR) has potential, although it floated away for a while. French Hélène Receveaux is always in the top 8 but now unseeded. Also her compatriot Sarah Leonie Cysique is a dangerous talent. The biggest outsider is Daria Mezhetskaia from Russia. European Games winner, tiny, blocked, unorthodox and this is her year. She knows Deguchi from the 2014 Junior Worlds where they met twice. She lost twice to Klimkait but this year she is a challenger for a world medal.
Margelidon is on Form
If Arthur Margelidon can hold his current form, day three can be sparkling. Margelidon reached the final in U73kg in Zagreb, which gives him a place at the best eight. If all goes well, he might be opposed to European Champion Tommy Macias of Sweden and both met many times. Most times Macias won, but Margelidon has chances. Dangerous are the ones outside the seeding list: Shohei Ono, Musa Mogushkov, Denis Iartcev, Fabio Basile, and a big layer where Constantin Gabun belongs to. Guys who can surprise the subtop, not even outsiders but they give this class flavor.
Double Chances on Day 4
Day four will be exciting with Antoine Valois-Fortier and Etienne Briand. In Montreal they fought each other and Valois-Fortier did what was expected. In 2019 Antoine was victorious three times at international meetings. However, the competition in U81kg is severe and both Canadians are non-seeded, so we need some help. But everybody in this weight class will need some help and it’s up to the non-seeded athletes to clean up the elite. Iran’s World Champion Mollaei is the favourite but Israel’s Sagi Muki is the most impressive fighter this year. We don’t know how the top athletes will behave. Muki is strong but didn’t meet Japanese Fujiwara this year. Fujiwara only lost to Mollaei in Hohhot, so in Japan you can count on him. De Wit seems vulnerable this year. Belgian talent Casse is getting close to the world podium, so is Paris winner Dominic Ressel.
Valois-Fortier could win against Albayrak, he did it before. Same for Casse, but he is gaining momentum. Even De Wit is possible for Antoine. Nasty Russian Lappinagov is actually a good opponent for Valois-Fortier, so actually he’s got a good track record against the top eight as last month he beat Mollaei in the semi-final. The last thing we want is to make statistics more important than they are, but a little hope on a positive result based upon history is realistic. If the flow in the team is good (e.g. medals on previous days help) then Antoine knows what to do…. Not to trip over a dark horse.
Are there any dark horses in this category? Well first worry is those who possess world class skills but are not seeded: Khalmurzaev, Wieczerzak, Ivanov, Otgonbaatar, Chouchi, Parlati, Ungvari. The dark horses are Ntanatsidis, Abdelaal, Gotonoaga, Druzeta, Khamza or Briand’s nemesis Yudy Santos, so easily 20 guys who can win a medal.
It will be the sixth World Championships for Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard and with twelve contests (10 in U57kg), she knows what to do. Her category U63kg is challenging, but her medal in Montreal generated good energy and with a seventh place in the seeding list she will get some protection. If she can stand the resistance, she might face Tina Trstenjak in the quarter final. It would already be a success. Beauchemin-Pinard fought enough contests in 2019 in this category to be ready for the next gear.
The Pace Makers
At day two we will see what Jacob Valois can do in U66kg. He is full of confidence after that sweet bronze medal in Montreal and it’s good to give him some experience at this level. Ecaterina Guica will look forward to improve her record at World Championships. This is her fourth, and so far she fought three contests, so that should be the first target to survive round one and pick up the pace as first Canadian U52kg.
At day five Zachary Burt will entertain us in U90kg, also a competitive weight category. Kelita Zupancic might reach a top eight rank. At her eighth World Championships, Kelita is not seeded this time. She fought a huge number of contests this year, at least 30 international bouts. In over 330 international battles in her career, the Pan American opponents were the tricky ones. Let’s hope she will come in a more European pool.
Exciting Debut for El Nahas
Two more chances at the sixth day of the World Championships with Kyle Reyes and Shady El Nahas. Reyes struggled in this hugely competitive category at World Championships with eight contests in four editions, the last sixteen was always the end point. Perhaps this year is even the worst as it became even more competitive, so Kyle will have to show his best and he is experienced enough that the opponents know his skills. That’s an advantage for Shady El Nahas who develops like a thunder storm, and the first year is usually easier. By now everyone should be aware of El Nahas’ powers. Once again, he showcased them in Montreal and he took the victory in Zagreb three weeks later. Shady is booming and at his debut at the Worlds he has everything to snatch a medal. What he might not have is a certain maturity as the average age of a World Championships medal winner in U100kg is almost 25 years. In this class you need to have that match intelligence. Nonetheless the best athletes took a medal at a young age and they won Olympic medals: Mikhailin (20), Zhitkeyev (20), Krpalek (20), Inoue (21), Jang (21) and also Wolf, who won the world title aged 21 and is still in the race for more. It’s possible and a debut doesn’t mind. It might even be decisive.
Now back to realism: El Nahas fought a few of the seeded athletes. Losses againt Cho twice, Darwish recently and Wolf last year. A positive track record against Peter Paltchik, Otgonbaatar Lkhagvasuren and Jorge Fonseca. Not yet Liparteliani and Korrel although at the trainings centres they may have crossed paths. The danger is again in the first rounds: Gasimov, Iddir, Minaskin, Maret, Frey, Catharina, Fletcher, Kotsoiev, Ilyasov and Adamian. It says enough about the competition that we can expect in Tokyo.
With or without Riner, the World Championships will be a great week for judo fans and those 56 medallists. Canada deserves one, with a bit of luck two and with the help of Canadian fans, why not guide them to a sensation. Bring in the magic spark!