My previous previews can be seen here
- Lucie Decosse, France
- Edith Bosch, Netherlands
- Haruka Tachimoto, Japan
- Rasa Sraka, Slovenia
- Ye-Sul Hwang, Korea
- Fei Chen, China
- Anett Meszaros, Hungary
- Maria Portela, Brazil
- Yuri Alvear, Colombia
- Cecilia Blanco, Spain
MMA related: This is the weight at which Ronda Rousey won her bronze medal in Beijing
The one name you definitely need to be aware of in this division, My favourite woman in judo and one of my favourite judoka ever, Lucie Decosse of France. Decosse is probably the most dominant woman in our era. She started her career at 63 kg where she amassed a 7th place in the 2004 Olympics, a gold and silver medal at the World championships and 4 golds, a silver and a bronze medal at the European championships. Going into Bejing she was the #1 ranked woman at 63 kilos and considered the strong favourite to win the gold. After working her way to the olympic final in dominant fashion, she ended up getting brilliantly countered by Ayumi Tanimoto of Japan to end up with an Olympic silver medal.
After Bejing, she made the decision to move up a weight class to the 70kg division where she continued to dominate everyone in front of her in pretty much the same kind of stylishly devastating fashion. Since Bejing, she has lost exactly 4 times in 63 recorded international competitions, and never to the same person twice. In the process she has picked up two world championships and an European bronze. At this point she is probably the second most beloved judoka in France behind a certain heavyweight phenom and is more than likely to be aiming to cement her legacy as one of the best ever with an Olympic gold.
If I had time I'd go into what makes her beautiful to watch from a technical standpoint, but I'd need a proper Judo Chop style post dedicated to her judo to even begin to do it justice. Suffice it to say that the is one of the best exponents of the O-Uchi-Gari(literal translation, Large Inner Reap. Known as the inside trip in wrestling I believe) on the planet. She does it constantly, people generally know its coming and outside of her Beijing final, they usually fail to stop her. When they do she has a bag of tricks she leans on to win anyway.
Lucie Decosse Highlights:
So... who will be gunning for her gold(and probably getting silver) then? World #2 Bosch(Olympic silver and bronze, World Gold, Silver and Bronze. Also the woman who knocked Ronda off the gold medal path in Beijing) has never beaten Decosse in competition and, if anything, looked scared to engage her the last time they fought. #3 Tachimoto(Asian silver) was the last woman to beat Decosse but has lost every other match against her and has lost the majority of her matches against Bosch. Tachimoto is only 21 though so I'd expect more from her come Rio.
On a slightly lower level in terms of potential, I'd put Rasa Sraka of Slovenia(2 world bronzes, European gold, silver and 3 bronzes) and Cecilia Blanco of Spain(3 silvers and a bronze at the Europeans)
A mild outsider I expect interesting things from is Yuri Alvear of Columbia(2009 World champ, 2 golds, a silver and 4 bronzes at the Pan-Ams). Columbia doesn't particularly have a rep in world Judo but Alvear has been consistently solid and beaten some really good people. If there is someone I'd expect to see kick it into gear and be surprising, she'd be it.
Since I have a general rule about always mentioning the Cuban, Onix Cortes Aldama(2 golds, 1 silver, 2 bronzes in the Pan-Ams) is the world #12 and should be interesting.
The British entry at this weight is Sally Conway. She has silvers and bronzes in the Junior European and World championships and a handful of medals in world competitions. I'm not super impressed by her though. The experience level of the women at the top of the table is far beyond hers and she would need to perform hyper spectacularly to make it into the top 5. As a sidenote, few of the GB team feel like they are being primed for Rio rather than for the London games
- Ilias Iliadis, Greece
- Masashi Nishiyama, Japan
- Dilshod Choriev, Uzbekistan
- Varlam Liparteliani, Georgia
- Asley Gonzalez, Cuba
- Tiago Camilo, Brazil
- Kirill Denisov, Russia
- Elkhan Mammadov, Azerbajan
- Marcus Nyman, Sweden
- Alexandre Emond, Canada
As with 70kg, there is one name you definitely need to know before we go any further. Ilias Illiadis of Greece. Illiadis was actually born in Georgia and did not move to Greece until he was 16. As a teen, he started competing internationally at 73kg and medalled at a couple of international tournaments before winning the u23 European championships. He then moved up to 81kg where he picked up a gold in Athens as an 18 year old. He followed that up with a European gold medal before moving up to 90kg. At this weight he has added 2 golds and 2 silvers at the Worlds and another European gold medal. Coming into the 2008 Olympics people expected great things from him. Unfortunately his first match was against Mark Huizinga of Holland, a legend in his own right, and thus ended Illiadis' Olympic dream.
In addition to the medals I've already talked about, Illiadis briefly dabbled with a move to the 100kg division where he was still good enough to win the 2008 Tournoi de Paris, one of the most prestigious competitions in international judo. For those of you keeping count, that is a collection of world class wins across 4 different weight classes. Someone asked me earlier on who I'd pick as the best pound-for-pound judoka competing today. On the women's side I'd pick Decosse and on the Men's side I'd pick Illiadis.
As far as his actual Judo, he typifies the concept of technique meeting horsepower better than almost everyone I've ever seen. He is monstrously strong and very skilled in a way that makes him exhilarating to watch because you are likely to see his opponent get ragdolled in a way that shouldn't happen to a 90+kg world class athlete. And he's my tentative pick for the gold. Why tentative? Because even though Illiadis is a monster he loses more often than I like to see when picking someone to definitely be Olympic champ. And some of the people he has lost to in the past will be in London looking to make him repeat the experience.
2011 Worlds HL
So I guess the next question is who I'd pick to beat him. And that is where the depth of this division gets interesting.
I'm going to be skipping ahead of a few people to first talk about World #8 and another of my favourite judoka of all time, Tiago Camilo of Brazil. Camilo is another one whose progression can be tracked across multiple weight classes. Starting as a 66kg teenager he won both the World Youth games and the World Junior Champioships before moving up to 73kg and medalling at the 2000 Tournoi de Paris on his way to an Olympic silver medal in Sydney. After that There is a 4 year gap in his competition history that ends with a move up to 81kg which yielded 2 Pan-Am golds, a World championship and a bronze at Beijing. Post-Beijing he moved up again to 90kg where he has picked up another Pan-Am gold.
As for what makes him great, the man is just slick. If Illiadis is an example of what pure horsepower gets you, Camilo represents the beauty inherent in an exquisite sense of timing. He does Judo the way Brazil plays football(soccer to you heathens). He is one of those people who makes the sport beautiful.
Coming into London, his ranking is a fair representation of his recent results. Better than the vast majority of his peers but occasionally faltering. That said, he has beaten Illiadis before and honestly has the skills to nake anyone he faces look bad. I'll be rooting for him.
Tiago Camilo HL
Besides my favourite Brazillian, this weight class is hard to predict because everyone in the top 10 has lost to several other people in the top 10 at least once. Makes it hard to make predictions. Luckily this weight class is full of great stories.
One such story, the Nishiyama brothers of Japan. Japan actually qualified nos. 2,3 and 4 at this weight. Takahashi Ono(Double world bronze, 2 golds and 5 bronzes Asian championships), Daiki Nishiyama(double world silver, Asian Silver) and his older brother Masashi(2009 Asian champ). Early on in the qualification process, Ono looked set to take the spot for Japan, then he started to flag as Daiki showed up and worked his way to the #2 spot in the world, beating almost everyone not named Illiadis. Finally along came Masashi to win a couple of huge competitions and place himself at #3, beating Illiadis along the way in a close, tactical gripping match. At the All Japans evertone expected things to end with a clash between the brothers. Instead they were both beaten by Hirotaka Kato, a 31 year old with limited international experience and no ranking points. Since Masashi lost in the final and Daiki in the semis, Masashi was chosen for London and Daiki gets to wait for Rio. Assuming some young unknown doesn't get him before then. I expect Masashi to medal, I'm just not sure if he can nullify Illiadis a second time to make that medal a gold.
Another great story, Varlam Liparteliani, the current Georgian rep versus Illiadis, who would have been Georgian rep and reportedly trains a lot with the Georgian team still. Since they are both sponsored by the same Gi company(which also produces judo videos) a video has been made hyping this rivalry.
We also have the fact that the last person to beat Illiadis was #21 Lambert of Germany, who people are expecting to come with some surprising performances.
Now on to the British rep and another story. Britain will be represented for the third Olympics in a row by European Bronze Medallist Winston Gordon. I kinda hinted at the story behind his selection in my last post, but now I'll go into things a bit more deeply. Because the UK is hosting the Olympics, they automatically qualified every single weight in male and female judo, meaning that the sport's governing body got to pick whoever they wanted rather than the athletes. At 90kg they initially chose Ben Fletcher, a 20 year old with a World u20 bronze and a handful of international appearances over Gordon and his chief rival for the spot Matthew Purrsey. Gordon and Purrsey then legally appealed the decision, ending with a ruling that Horley didn't meed the established criteria and Gordon chosen to replace him. My guess is Horley will be shoved into the qualification grind for Rio.
On a personal note, I've met Winston Gordon and know quite a few people who train with him regularly. They all have nothing but nice things to say about him as a person. I wasn't sure if he would get the nod over Purrsey and am glad he did, even though I would have understood if it had gone the other way. I'm hoping he does something special at this Olympics and shocks everyone. By all reports he has the skills to do it.