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Neutral judo athletes announced for Paris

Neutral judo athletes announced for Paris

5 Jun 2024 01:00
Tamara Kulumbegashvili - IJF

Finally, the team of neutral athletes has been announced, which is essentially the Russian team, as it does not include any judoka from Belarus. Russia had multiple qualifying spots in several weight classes for the Olympics. Due to the boycott of Russian athletes, they were not welcome in the IJF World Judo Tour for a long time. However, since the real qualification series began in July 2022, they were able to start catching up, while other countries had already taken a lead in points.

Team manager Ezio Gamba's team has chosen Danil Lavrentev for the up to 73kg category over Makhmadbek Makhmadbekov, who performed very well in the first part of the qualification. However, Lavrentev showed strong results, especially in 2024. In the up to 66kg category, Murad Chopanov is the chosen athlete for Paris. He has been in good form this year, particularly after his victory at the Grand Slam in Kazakhstan. Former world champion in the up to 60kg category, Yago Abuladze, was outperformed by Chopanov.

It was no surprise that Inal Tasoev was chosen over Tamerlan Bashaev, the bronze medalist from the previous Olympics. Despite Bashaev's good results, Tasoev became world champion in 2023 and continued his excellent performance. In the up to 81kg category, young talent Timur Arbuzov was selected, especially after his silver medal at the last World Championships in Abu Dhabi. The logical choice for the up to 100kg category was Matvey Kanikovskiy instead of 2023 world champion Arman Adamian, who struggled to find his form. Kanikovskiy was in exceptional form during the qualification and is certainly a contender for Olympic gold in Paris.

Lightweight Ramazan Abdulaev's selection was no surprise, although Ayub Bliev remained a strong contender for a place in France. Mikhail Igolnikov was almost certain to secure a spot in the up to 90kg category, despite seeking his form. He is known to peak at the Olympics even without evident form, making him a standout choice.

For the women, several athletes were relatively certain of qualification as long as they showed some form: Daria Kurbanmamadova in the up to 57kg category and Madina Taimazova, who faced no competition in the up to 70kg category. Lightweight Sabina Giliazova made it clear from the start that she was the candidate for the up to 48kg position. Elis Starteva emerged as the ideal heavyweight among the neutral athletes with consistent performances, often securing bronze in the women's +78kg category. Dali Liluashvili joined the team last, making a difference in March and May this year with two silver medals at Grand Slams, allowing her to join the elite in the up to 63kg category.

At the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, the Russian federation won three bronze medals: Niyaz Ilyasov in the up to 100kg category, Tamerlan Bashaev in the men's heavyweight, and Madina Taimazova in the women's up to 70kg category. This year, the men's chances lie in the up to 100kg and heavyweight categories, and Arbuzov has shown that he can compete with the world’s best in the up to 81kg category. Igolnikov can score unexpectedly on a good day, but he is not currently among the top contenders in the up to 90kg category.

For the women, Taimazova remains a medal candidate but is less dominant than in 2021. Gamba's team is always capable of peaking at the right moment but faces different challenges in this qualification compared to previous years. The Neutral athletes, will not participate in the team event.

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