Uzbekistan made their Paralympic debut in judo at the London 2012 Games, sending just one athlete. But they are on pace to send more at Rio 2016, showcasing a notable development of the sport in the country.
Uzbekistani judoka topped the medals table at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo World Cup in February, winning seven medals, including four golds. Their accomplishment is No. 47 in the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of the year.
The event was an important qualifier for Rio 2016, with more than 100 judoka participating and also making the World Cup in Eger the biggest-ever para-sport event held in Hungary.
In the men’s competition, Uzbekistan won three out of seven events.
Perhaps the biggest of them all was Uzbekistan’s Shirin Sharipov in the men’s up to 100kg after he defeated South Korea’s London 2012 champion Gwang Guen Choi for the gold.
Sharipov replicated that feat at the IBSA Judo World Championships in May in Seoul, South Korea, further stamping his name as the top of his category. Now, the 2014 World Championships silver medallist tops his respective category in the world rankings.
Uzbekistan continued to defy expectations at the World Cup in Hungary.
Sherzod Namozov, a fourth place finisher at the 2014 World Championships, defeated South Korea’s Min Jae Lee in the men’s up to 60kg gold medal match.
Feruz Sayidov, a world bronze medallist in September 2014, defeated Japan’s three-time Paralympic judo champion Satoshi Fujimoto for in the men’s up to 66kg.
In the women’s competition, Uzbekistan’s Tursunpashsha Nurmetova defeated Ukraine’s world champion Iryna Husieva in the up to 63kg final.
In the latest IBSA Judo World Rankings, Uzbekistani men are ranked in the top-two in five categories – Namozov, Sayidov, Sharipov, Nurbek Berdiyorov (up to 66kg) and Shukhrat Boboev (up to 90kg). The top nine ranked male athletes (not otherwise qualified) in each medal event on the world ranking list by the end of the year earn a qualification slot for Rio 2016 their respective National Paralympic Committees.
At London 2012, Sharif Khalilov was the lone Uzbekistani judoka to represent his nation and came away with silver in the men’s up to 73kg. This year, he moved to the up to 81kg category, where he ranks No. 5. He took silver at the IBSA World Games in Seoul, but if he maintains his ranking in the top-nine, Khalilov could possibly return for a second straight Paralympic appearance.
And this time, he would expect not to go alone.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2015, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.