A record number of competitors led to some new faces on the podium on the opening day of the Judo World Championships in Odivelas, Portugal, as Paralympic champions failed to capitalise on their status as favourites.
South Korea’s Soohee Choi became the women’s up to 48kg world champion on her Worlds debut after an incredible preliminary round performance that saw her cast aside two major players.
On her way to the final Choi beat two Paralympic champions in China’s Li Liqing and France’s Sandrine Martinet.
Choi then dug in for gold against Azerbaijan’s Shahana Hajiyeva, scoring an Ippon. The victory adds to her Asian Para Games title from Jakarta, Indonesia, in October, where once again she faced down Li on her way to gold.
“I feel like I am flying high in the sky,” Choi said of her golden Worlds debut. “The coaches taught me and I followed, that’s why I got a result.”
Choi also indicated that the support of her team meant that she felt confident going in to the final: “My coaches gave me a lot of advice about my opposing judoka so it was not really hard.”
Bronze went to Martinet, who was determined to come back from disappointment in the preliminaries, after a gritty win against Turkey’s Ecem Tasin.
Chinese Taipei’s Kai Lin Lee also grabbed bronze, overhauling Russia’s* Aigul Faizullina.
Uzbekistan’s Feruz Sayidov was another debutant to claim his first world title on day one, this time in the men’s up to 73kg. He triumphed over Azerbaijan's world and Paralympic champion Ramil Gasimov earlier in the day, before going on to win in the final against South Korea’s Seungjun Yang.
Gasimov took a consolation bronze along with Germany’s Nikolas Kornhass.
Kazakhstan’s Olzhas Orazalyuly emerged victorious from a tense tie against Algeria’s Ishak Ouldkouider in the men’s up to 60kg. With the scores even, the match appeared as if it was going to go the distance. However, Orazalyuly snuck in an ippon, successfully sweeping one of his opponent’s legs from underneath him.
Ouldkoudier settled for silver but can be content with his win over Paralympic champion Sherzod Namozov of Uzbekistan in the preliminaries.
Namozov still made the podium, but this time in third. He beat China’s Xu Zhao for bronze. Azerbaijan’s Vugar Shirinli also took bronze after winning his fight against teammate Orkhan Garayev.
Azerbaijan’s Bayram Mustafayev retained his title in the men’s up to 66kg following a close tie with Algeria’s Sid Ali Lamri. Both men shared two Shido each for various infractions until the defending champion executed a Tomanagi to claim gold.
Uzbekistan’s Paralympic champion Urtkirjon Nigmatov occupied the third place on the podium, alongside Georgia’s Giorgi Gamjashvili.
Some categories did however go to form on Friday (17 November).
It took under 10 seconds for Ukraine’s Inna Cherniak to land Germany’s Ramona Brussig on her back for Ippon in the women’s up to 52kg.
Cherniak, the women’s up to 57kg world and Paralympic champion, secured the world title with her first big move, leaving the German no chance to reply. The silver for Brussig is her third consecutive podium finish at a World Championships.
Canada’s Priscilla Gagne followed up on her Americas title from earlier in 2018 with bronze. The rising star reached the top three on her Worlds debut, overcoming Uzbekistan’s Sevinch Salaeva.
South Korea’s Nayeong Song rounded off the medallists, also with bronze.
Turkey’s Zeynep Celik, the world No.1, could not wait to embrace her coach following an emotional win in the women’s up to 57kg. Fighting Japan’s Paralympic bronze medallist Junko Hirose, Celik managed a fine trip on her opponent to claim an Ippon.
China’s Zhilian Lin and Uzbekistan’s Parvina Samandarova were the bronze medallists.
A total of 268 judoka from 43 countries are competing for titles at the 2018 IBSA Judo World Championships.
The biggest Worlds in the history of the sport are being shown live on IBSA Judo’s Facebook page and IBSA’s YouTube channel, with finals also shown on the International Paralympic Committee’s website.
Live results are available on the Judo World Championships website.