Rotterdam 2009 – Day 1 overview

The 26th world judo championships began today (Wednesday) with an explosion of upsets as the lightest weight categories began battling for medals in Rotterdam.


Never since the world championships began in 1951 have so many leading fighters gone home without medals on the opening day of the biennial event.


After the first morning’s contests, none of the male medallists at the Beijing Olympics in the under 60 kilos and under 66 kilos divisions had survived until the semi-finals. The massacre of the fancied competitors demonstrates how genuinely global the sport has become with 543 entries from 100 countries taking part in these five-day championships.


In the under 60 kilos, both the 2008 Olympic finalists, Min-Ho Choi of Korea and Ludwig Paischer of Austria, the world ranked number one in the IJF ranking, went out early on. In the second round, Choi lost on ippon after 2 minutes 34 seconds to the experienced Czech Pavel Petrikov, while Paischer, 27, the 2008 European champion also lost on ippon to the unfancied Elio Verde of Italy in his first bout. Verde later defeated Petrikov to reach the semi-finals.


Nor was that all. The home favourite, Ruben Houkes of the Netherlands, who won the 2007 world title, also went out in the first round to Sergio Pessoa of Canada. The Dutchman lamented afterwards:”It has been a horrible day. Sergio is a real judoka but it was a match I should not have lost. I was totally fit and would have liked to have demonstrated it. I wanted to let him become tired but I didn’t get into the bout. There are just so many judokas in this weight classes who can beat each other.”


Nestor Khergiani, the immensely experienced 34 year-old from Georgia, who has won nine European championships medals, also failed to make the semi-finals but, at least, he qualified for the repechage.


In the under 66 kilos, Masato Uchishiba, the double Olympic champion from Japan, was another casualty, going out to Mirali Sharipov of Uzbekistan, who in turn lost to Alim Gadanov of Russia, the eventual semi-finalist from their pool. Gadanov finished first in the Grand Slam in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil earlier this year and has twice won bronze medals in the European Championships. Benjamin Darbelet of France, who was runner-up to Uchishiba in the Olympic final last year and has won five European Championship medals, also failed to reach the semi-finals, as did Armen Nazaryan, the hugely experienced Armenian.


In the one women’s class to be held today, the under 48 kilos, there were fewer surprises, as the competitors began to come to terms with the absence of the celebrated Japanese Ryoko Tani, who is pregnant having won a record seven world titles. Her successor Tomoko Fukumi reached the semi-finals as did the favourite Alina Dumitru of Romania. However, France’s Fredrique Jossinet, the reigning European champion and twice a finalist in the world championships, was an early casualty, losing to Olana Blanco of Spain, while Ludmila Bogdanova went out to Sara Menezes of Brazil. The Russian said afterwards:”Coming here, I was expecting a medal and I felt good. I was well prepared but you just cannot make the kind of mistakes that I made today.”