Odivelas 2018: Record-breaking Worlds begin

Paralympic judo champions head biggest field to date

female judoka Naomi Soazo raises her arms straight up in the air in celebration Naomi Soazo is one of a host of Paralympic champions competing at Odivelas 2018 © • Getty Images

A host of defending champions, Paralympic gold medallists and regional title holders are among nearly 300 judokas from more than 40 countries competing at the biggest World Championships yet in Odivelas, Portugal, from 16-18 November.

Competition will be shown live on the IPC's Facebook page and website while live results will be available on the Judo World Championships website.

Women

Sandrine Martinet decided to take a break after winning a much-celebrated gold in the up to 52kg at her fourth Paralympics in Rio, in 2016.

Two years later she returned to the tatami in her new category of up to 48kg, winning the World Cup in Atyrau, Kazakhstan. “If the injuries leave me alone I have all my chances at the World Championships. And I want to score maximum points,” the French said.

Li Liqing could get in Martinet’s way as the defending champion. At 25-years-old, the Chinese is also the Paralympic title holder.

Venezuela’s Naomi Soazo is another seasoned athlete who returns from a hiatus. The 29-year-old became her country’s first and only Paralympic champion in any sport at Beijing 2008, and secured bronze in Rio.

After taking time out to have a son, Soazo will fight Mexico’s Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba in the up to 70kg. The USA’s Christella Garcia is also in the hunt for her first Worlds medal in the category. The judoka has moved down from the over 70kg where she won bronze at Rio 2016.

Not content with her world and Paralympic titles from the up to 57kg from the last cycle, Ukraine’s Inna Cherniak began competing in the up to 52kg in late 2017. Since making the switch, the 30-year-old has been unstoppable, winning three World Cup titles.

Priscilla Gagne will make her World Championships debut as the Pan American champion in the up to 52kg this year. Gagne also picked up silver at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.

Men

Ehsan Mousanezhad Karmozdi is flying high after beating South Korea’s Paralympic champion Gwan Geun Choi in the men’s up to 100kg at the recent Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. Iran’s former powerlifter has only been competing in judo since 2017.

Georgia's Zviad Gogotchuri, the men’s up to 90kg Paralympic champion, has made the move to the up to 100kg. Great Britain’s European champion Chris Skelley is also aiming to be among the medals in the highly competitive category.

“I like to beat everyone but obviously I want to beat the likes of [Zviad] Gogotchuri and [Gwang Geun] Choi. I want to take them scalps this time and prove that I really am of this level and show the world I’m here to stay.”

In the men’s up to 60kg, Algeria’s Beijing 2008 gold medallist Nora Moloud will try to retain his gold from the 2014 World Championships.

Uzbekistan’s Sherzod Namozov is a rival to Moloud. Since claiming Worlds bronze four years ago, Namozov has dominated. He has taken a Paralympic title and several World Cup wins.

As Japan prepare to host the next Paralympic Games, 13 of the country’s best judoka will also line-up.

These include Satoshi Fujimoto, who inspired a generation with his Paralympic golds from Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. After silver at Beijing 2008 and sitting-out London 2012, Fujimoto returned to the mat for Rio 2016 and showed he can still challenge for the podium with bronze in the up to 66kg.

Makoto Hirose also left Rio with silver in the up to 60kg, equalling his performance from Athens 2004.

A full competition schedule is available on IBSA’s website.