Judo Preview
The sport of judo heads back to the country of its birth, Japan. Men’s judo was first added to the Olympic program at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964. Women’s judo was added as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Games in Seoul, Korea, before being added to the official Olympic program in 1992. Since the sport’s addition, USA Judo athletes have won 14 medals at the Olympic Games. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Kayla Harrison (78 kg.) successfully defended her 2012 Olympic gold and Travis Stevens (81 kg.) earned silver. 

The goal of a judo match is to throw one’s opponent onto his or her back, finishing with an arm lock, stranglehold or immobilization on the floor. Various moves are assigned different point values. A contest can be won immediately if a competitor scores “ippon,” the maximum 10 points, by throwing the adversary largely on their back with strength and speed and holding them immobile on the floor for 25 seconds. Otherwise, points are given for lesser moves – such as “wazari,” in which the opponent is taken down and held immobile for at least 15 seconds, but less than 20. Two wazari are equal to one ippon. The third technique is the “yuko,” which occurs when the rival falls on his or her side or is held down for at least 10 seconds, but less than 15. The judoka with the most points at the end of a five-minute match is the winner.

Updated on July 19, 2020. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

Judo first premiered at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964. That inaugural U.S. Olympic Judo Team achieved great success on the mat and went on to achieve great success off the mat as well. Team members included: Jim Bregman, who became the first U.S. Olympic medalist in the sport of judo with his bronze-medal finish at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964; Paul Maruyama, who became the coach of the U.S. Olympic judo team for the 1980 and 1984 Games; and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who was introduced to judo by Japanese immigrant families he met while working in local agricultural fields and went on to become U.S. Representative, a U.S. Senator and a member of the Council of Chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe. 

The team was coached by second-generation Japanese-American, Yoshihiro Uchida. Uchida will celebrate his 100th birthday in March 2020. He graduated from San Jose State University in 1947 and has been an icon in both the San Jose and international judo communities for decades. After graduation from SJSU, Uchida continued to coach at the University and organized the first Collegiate Judo National Championships in 1962 – two years before being named as the head coach of the first U.S. Olympic Judo Team in 1964. Uchida helped grow and train Olympic medalists Kevin Asano (1988, silver), Bob Berland (1984, silver), Marti Malloy (2012, bronze) and Mike Swain (1988, bronze). In 1986, Uchida received one of the highest honors an individual can receive in Japan – the Order of the Sacred Treasure with Golden Rays by Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Even at his advanced age, he continues to coach at SJSU.

Beyond the development of physical prowess and athletic ability, judo students learn much more. They learn how to control their feelings, emotions and impulses through the Judo Moral Code, which is a set of ethics created by the sport’s founder Jigoro Kano. He believed that courtesy, courage, friendship, honesty, honor, modesty, respect and self-control were vital in the development of judo players and individuals both on and off the mat. Through their experience in the sport, judoka learn about politeness, modesty and many other wonderful values that contribute to their development as successful citizens of society. The word judo consists of two Japanese characters, ju, which means "gentle", and do, which means "the way". Judo, therefore, literally means the way of gentleness.

The 2020 U.S. Olympic Judo Team will be announced at a date still to be determined, after the International Judo Federation releases its final 2020 Olympic qualification world rankings for the sport. The following athletes are the top USA Judo contenders to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games, now scheduled to take place in 2021. 

Angelica Delgado (Miami, Florida)
Delgado competes in the women’s 52 kg division and sits solidly as the top of the Olympic hopeful list for USA Judo, after clinching bronze at the 2020 IJF Grand SlaM in Dusseldorf, Germany. In the coming year, the 2016 U.S. Olympian will focus her energy on trying to improve her overall ranking to earn a coveted top-eight seat in the Olympic bracket, which would greatly enhance her potential to win a medal at next summer’s Olympic Games. The 29 year-old Delgado trains under the tutelage of Johnny Prado at the Ki-itsu-sai National Training Center in Coral Springs, Fla. Delgado is bilingually fluent in both the English and Spanish languages.

Colton Brown (Piscataway, New Jersey)
Brown leads USA Judo men’s team and is second on the U.S. list of overall Olympic qualifying points. Brown is looking to make his second U.S. Olympic Judo Team in the 90 kg weight class, having also represented the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro. The three-time world championship competitor placed seventh at the 2020 Tel Aviv Grand Slam event in Israel on Jan. 23.

Nefeli Papadakis (Gurnee, Illinois)
Papadakis is currently ranked third for USA Judoka on the 2020 Olympic qualifying list and is the top ranked U.S. woman in the 78 kg division. Coached by her father, Steve Papadakis, Nefeli began competing at the age of four and has since become a repeating national champion. She also teaches judo with several family members at their training center in Waukegan, Ill. Born in Chicago, Papadakis graduated from Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Ill., in 2017, before going on to study entrepreneurship at College of Lake County also in Gurnee.

Nina Cutro-Kelly (Albany, New York) 
Cutro-Kelly is an eight-time senior world championships team member for Team USA, competing in the women’s +78 kg division. Cutro-Kelly attended University de Pennes in Pennes, France, and is fluent in the French language.

Adonis Diaz (Hialeah, Florida)
Diaz took bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and was recently listed by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s website as one of 20 athletes on the cusp of breaking out in 2020. The 2014 Youth Olympian has shown tremendous potential for Team USA including winning bronze at the 2019 Montreal Grand Prix in Montreal, Quebec. Diaz is bilingually fluent in both the English and Spanish languages.

The International Judo Federation’s 2020 Olympic qualification world ranking list on May 30, 2020, will be used to allocate the 352 qualification places in hierarchical order for the Tokyo Games. 

Direct qualification for the seven men’s and women’s weight categories will be made up from the 18 highest ranked athletes on the ranking list as a date still to be determined, with a maximum of one athlete per country in each weight class. An additional 100 athletes will be directly qualified as per the ranking list as of a date still to be determined, based on continental representation.  

There will also be a new mixed team component added to the medal program next year, but for countries to be eligible, the National Olympic Committee must field a qualified athlete in the following six weight categories:

• Women: -57 kg., -70 kg., +70 kg.
• Men: -73kg., -90 kg., +90 kg.

The U.S. team will not be announced until May 30, 2020, after the International Judo Federation releases its final world rankings for the sport. Direct qualification for the seven men’s and women’s weight categories will be made up from the 18 highest ranked athletes on the IJF 2020 Olympic Qualification World Ranking List as of May 30, 2020, with a maximum of one athlete per country in each weight class.

Given the ever developing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the International Judo Federation on March 9, 2020 announced the cancellation/postponement of all remaining scheduled 2020 Olympic Qualification Events. That decision froze the calendar locking in the Olympic qualification ranking points as of March 9, 2020. These rankings will not change until the IJF approved 2020 Olympic Qualification period resumes at a date still to be determined. 

As the IJF's 2020 Olympic Qualification rankings currently stand, three USA Judo athletes are in a qualified position for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Angelica Delgado (Miami, Fla./Ki-itsu-sai National Training Center/New York Athletic Club) sits solidly as the top Olympic hopeful for USA Judo. Her February 21, 2020 bronze medal performance at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam in Germany put her solidly as No.13 in the women’s 52 kg division with 2,850 points.  Once Olympic qualification resumes, the 2016 U.S. Olympian will focus her energy on trying to improve her overall ranking to earn a coveted top eight seed in the Olympic bracket which would greatly enhance her potential to win a medal at this summer’s Olympic Games.  Colton Brown (Piscataway, N.J./New York Athletic Club) leads USA Judo’s men’s team and is second on the U.S. list of overall Olympic qualifying points with 1,969 points.  Brown is looking to make his second U.S. Olympic Judo Team in the 90 kg weight class, having also represented the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The three-time world championship competitor placed seventh at the 2020 Tel Aviv Grand Slam event in Israel on January 23 and is currently No.26 internationally and has an IJF qualification status of continental quota.  Nefeli Papadakis (Gurnee, Ill./ARENA Training Center) is currently the third ranked USA Judoka on the 2020 Olympic qualifying  list and the top ranked U.S. woman and #27 overall in the 78 kg division with 1,375 points.

The next three highest ranked USA Judo athletes that are currently just outside of Olympic qualified status are:  Nina Cutro-Kelly (Albany, N.Y./Selma, Texas/Universal Judo) in the women’s +78 kg division.  Adonis Diaz (Hialeah, Fla./Ki-itsu-sai National Training Center/New York Athletic Club) in the men’s 60 kg weight class and L.A. Smith III (Rahway, N.J.) in the men’s under 100 kg division.  For the full list of currently 2020NE Olympic qualification point standings for all USA Judo athletes, please visit:  https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Judo/2020-Olympics/Olympic.

The International Judo Federation’s 2020 Olympic qualification world ranking list began on May 25, 2018 and was frozen on March 9, 2020.  As mentioned earlier, the IJF has announced that it intends to re-open the Olympic qualification period at a date still to be determined.  This list will be used to allocate the 352 qualification places in hierarchical order for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. 

Direct qualification for the seven women’s (-48kg, -52kg, -57kg, -63kg, -70kg, -78kg, +78kg) and seven men’s (-60kg, -66kg, -73kg, -81kg, -90kg, -100kg,+100kg) weight categories will be made up from the 18 highest ranked athletes on the ranking list with a maximum of one athlete per country in each weight class. An additional 100 athletes will be directly qualified as per the ranking list based on continental representation.  

There will also be a new mixed team component added to the medal program in 2020, but for countries to be eligible the NOC must field a qualified athlete in the following six weight categories: women’s -57 kg., -70 kg ., +70 kg and men’s -73kg., -90 kg., +90 kg divisions.

 For complete information on the 2020 Olympic Qualification System please visit:  https://www.teamusa.org/usa-judo/2020-olympics/2020-olympic-qualification-system.  To better understand how athletes earn qualification ranking points at designated tournaments, please visit:  https://78884ca60822a34fb0e6-082b8fd5551e97bc65e327988b444396.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/up/2019/12/IJF_WRL_Events_version_2019_12-1575536064.pdf

Please continue to monitor the USA Judo website (https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Judo) and the International Judo Federation website (www.ijf.org) for official announcements and updates during this ever-changing and fluid COVID-19 crisis.

 TBD: Due to the impact of COVID-19 and the delay of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, dates are still being determined and will be announced.