The Ukrainian judokas are the ones to beat when the second day of the Rio 2016 judo competition gets underway on Friday (9 September).
The first of Ukraine’s gold medal hopes to fight will be Dmytro Solovey in the men’s up to 73 kg category. Current world champion Solovey won gold at London 2012 and is looking to add another to his collection in Rio.
Doing everything he can to prevent a Solovey victory will be Azerbaijan’s Ramil Gasimov. Gasimov has shown that he can beat the Ukrainian when it matters, most recently in the final at the 2015 European Championships in Odivelas, Portugal.
Perhaps Ukraine’s best chance for a medal on Friday comes when Inna Cherniak competes in the women’s up to 57kg competition. The current World No.1 is looking for a gold medal on her Paralympic debut in Rio, having previously won two European titles and a World Championship gold in 2014.
But standing in Cherniak’s way is a hard-to-beat field of rivals including Korea’s Hana Seo. Seo is the reigning world champion, having defeated Cherniak on home soil in the final of the 2015 World Championships in Seoul, Korea.
In the same event, Brazil’s World No.3 and current Parapan American title holder Lucia Araujo is one of the host nation’s best medal hopes. With the crowd in Carioca Arena 3 sure to roar her on, Araujo will be looking to go one better than the silver she won at London 2012.
In the up to 63kg classification yet another Ukranian World No.1, Iryna Husieva, is a serious gold medal contender. The draw has set up the exciting prospect of a final match between Husieva and Cuba’s London 2012 gold medal winner Dalidaivis Rodriguez.
Ukraine’s fourth title hope of the day comes when reigning Paralympic Champion Olexandr Kosimov takes to the tatami in up to 81kg event. Since taking gold at London 2012, Kosimov has gone from strength to strength, winning European titles in both 2013 and 2015.
Perhaps his greatest threat comes from Korea’s current world champion Jung Min Lee, who defeated Kosimov the last time the two went head to head at the 2015 World Cup event in Eger, Hungary.
Of the other up to 81kg judokas, watch out for Mexico’s Beijing 2008 gold medal winner Eduardo Avila Sanchez and France’s World No.2 Cyril Jonard, who will head to Rio full of confidence after winning gold at the Grand Prix event in Birmingham, England, in June.