Men’s 81kg and Women’s 63kg Division World Championships Preview
(Rotterdam, Netherlands) - Competition will continue at the Senior World Championships on Friday in Rotterdam with the men's 81kg and women's 63kg divisions.
Below is a preview of each of the divisions. Competition begins with preliminary rounds at 9:30 a.m. local time and finals at 2 p.m.
After placing ninth at the Olympic Games in 2008, Travis Stevens (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) has been ranked as high as #8 in the world this year after winning the Pan American Championships and placing third at the Brazil Grand Slam in July.
Stevens has a first-round match against reigning European bronze medalist Aljaz Sedej (SLO). The winner of that match will face the winner of a match between Ramin Gurbanov (AZE) and Guillermo Bouza (URU). In the third round, Stevens could face 2007 World bronze medalist Euan Burton (GBR). With no shortage of top players to be found in his pool, Steven's draw could pit him against 2008 Olympic silver medalist Jae-Bum Kim (KOR) in the quarter finals..
In the pool above Stevens, former World Champion Guillaume Elmont (NED) has the potential to become the first Dutch player to win a medal this week after several of his countrymen lost in the early rounds in the lighter divisions.
The top half of the draw includes 2008 Olympic Champion Ole Bischof (GER) who proved his mortality when he placed fifth at the European Championships this year after losses to Sedej and 22-year-old Axel Clerget (FRA) who is in Elmont's pool. Bischof and Stevens match up well against each other with Bischof taking wins over Stevens by small margins including a yuko (quarter-point) win at the Beijing Olympic Games and a Golden Score (over time) victory in the finals of the New York Open earlier this year.
Top seed and European Champion Ivan Nifontov (RUS) is in the pool above Bischof. Nifontov has had a successful season with his only losses coming to a Russian teammate and Kim at the Paris Grand Slam in February where Nifontov won the first of three major World Tour medals this year.
Janine Nakao (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) will be competing on her first U.S. Team, but in a week filled with upsets, Nakao is hoping to add her name to the list of players who have knocked off the big names.
Nakao's first match will be against Kylie Koenig (AUS) with the winner moving on to face either 2008 Olympic medalist Elisabeth Willeboordse (NED) or Munkhzaya Tsedevsuren (MGL). Also in Nakao's pool is Alice Schlesinger (ISR) who hasn't made it to the top of the World Rankings, but has been known to put together key wins, including the defeat of Willeboordse at the European Championships earlier this year.
The wildcard in this division will be Gevrise Emane (FRA), the 2007 World Champion in the 70kg division. Emane moved down to 63kg earlier this summer, but her competition experience against the lighter players has been limited. Look for her to be tested in the quarters with a possible match-up against 2004 Olympic medalist Urska Zolnir (SLO) who is the reigning European Champion.
In the top of the draw, top seed Yoshie Ueno (JPN) hasn't lost a match this season to any player in the Worlds draw, winning golds at the Paris Grand Slam and Hamburg Grand Prix which she followed with a silver medal at the Moscow Grand Slam in May. Ueno is a first-time World Team member, but Japan has traditionally been strong in this division with Ayumi Tanimoto winning back-to-back Olympic titles in 2004 and 2008.