Judo Haecker win

Katharina Haecker wins in under a minute at the Tel Aviv grand slam (credit @judo twitter)

Australia is sending its smallest Judo team in years to the Tokyo games. With exciting athleticism and strength, Judo is a sport to tune into.

There are 15 medals up for grabs in the Tokyo 2020 Judo competition, with men and women competing to throw their opponents to the ground. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Judo has developed over hundreds of years to be the sport it is today. Dr Jigoro Kano brought together different martial arts styles in the 1880s to create modern Judo. He believed a wrestling sport could be developed that did not have the dangerous elements of jujitsu but still contained mental discipline and moral education.

The Japanese word Judo means ‘the way of suppleness’. This is an odd term for what can be a very violent sport. The way of suppleness comes from an old Japanese story in which a tree branch bends rather than snaps under the winter snow.

Judo made its Olympic debut in 1964 and has only missed the 1968 Mexico City games since that date. Judo at Tokyo 2020 will be somewhat poetic, in that the sport is coming full circle since debuting in the Japanese capital 57 years ago.

Tokyo 2020 Rules

As with most martial art competitions, Judo comprises different weight classes and different categories for men and women. There will be 15 medal opportunities across the various categories in a sport that could be a big medal winner for the host nation.

A Judo bout is most often won by a points victory. The way to win a point is by successfully executing a throw or a hold. Once a point is awarded, the referee will interject and stop the bout, the fighters will then reset, and the bout will begin again.

The time for each Judo bout will be five minutes of actual fighting time. The clock will stop at every point the referee interjects and resets on the referees’ commands. While a point victory is the usual method of victory, a bout can also be stopped after one throw.

An ‘ippon’ is described as the perfect throw. If a fighter completes an ‘ippon’ they will be crowned the instant winner. An ‘ippon’ is achieved by throwing an opponent onto their back with extreme power speed and control. Whether a throw constitutes an ‘ippon’ is determined by the referee.

The men will compete in seven different weight categories. These categories start at the lightest being 60kg, going onto 66kg, 73kg, 81kg, 90kg, 100kg and the heaviest being over 100kg’s.

The women similarly will also compete in seven categories. The lightest is 48kg, followed by 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 70kg, 78kg and the heaviest being the 78kg event.

An additional event has also been added to 2020, the mixed team event. Each team will include six fighters, three men and three women. The winner of each respective bout will be awarded a point. The highest point-scoring team will then go through to the next round in a repechage system.

Why to Watch

Judo is one of the more modern martial arts sports. With Olympic Judo going full circle with Judo originally appearing in 1964 in the same city, Judo will be a must-watch sport. The athleticism required to throw and grapple opponents is awe-inspiring and needs to be seen on the world stage.

Judo is practised by over 40 million people across the planet. That many people cannot be wrong about a sport. With 15 medals up for grabs throughout the competition, Judo has the potential to change the medal table.

With Australia only having won two medals in Judo in the past, Tokyo 2020 may prove to be another medal opportunity.

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Australian Judo History

Australia was first exposed to Judo in the early 20th century. In 1906 the first demonstration event occurred in Melbourne. However, it was not until 1928 that the first judo club was opened in Australia.

Australia has sent a judo team to every Olympics since 1964. 1964 saw Ted Boronovskis win Australia’s first Judo medal with a bronze in the open men’s category. Australia’s only other judo medal came in Australia’s massive haul in 2000. Maria Pekli won bronze in the 57kg women’s category.

Daniel Kelly has been Australia’s stand out competitor throughout Australia’s Judo history. Kelly began his Olympic career at Sydney 2000 and went onto compete at three further Olympics. After competing Kelly then went onto coach the Australian team at Rio 2016.

Australian Competitors for 2020

Australia will be sending over its smallest judo contingent in years. Only two competitors will be flying to the Japanese capital to fight for gold. 2020 will not be Australia’s strongest Judo squad, but hopefully, they will find a medal opportunity. Katharina Haecker and Aoife Coughlan will be representing Australia.

Haecker began competing in Judo competitions from the age of six and won several junior titles throughout her youth. Haecker competed for Australia at the Olympics in 2016. She was an essential part of the team. Unfortunately, she lost in her second match and was out of the competition.

At 25 years of age, Coughlan will be competing at her first Olympics. Coughlan has had an amazing last few years on the circuit. Most recently, Coughlan won bronze at the 2019 Fujairah Asian Judo Championships. She did the same again and won bronze at the 2021 Bishkek Asian Judo Championships. While she will not go in as the favourite for her weight class, Coughlan will be stiff competition in every fight.

Medal Favourites

Varlam Liparteliani- At 32 Liparteliani is one of the more senior Judo practitioners. Now competing in the half heavyweight category of under 100kg, Liparteliani will have to fight much bigger competitors than he is used to. He won silver at Rio 2016 in the 90kg category. He will go in as a favourite because, in his most recent competition at the Judo Masters in Dubai, he won gold in the 100kg category.

District Krasniqi- Hailing from the little-known country of Kosovo. Krasniqi will go in as the favourite for the under 48kg women’s category. At the last world championships in 2019, Krasniqi won bronze. However, since then, Krasniqi has been on a steep rise. Krasniqi has won four gold medals in the last two years and has been on top of her game. After a 2021 gold medal at the Doha Masters in Krasniqi is one to watch for Tokyo 2020.

Idalys Ortiz- Ortiz is a top-quality judo performer and hails from Cuba. Tokyo 2020 will be Ortiz’s fourth successive Olympics. Having won medals in every Olympics she has competed in, Ortiz will go in as the favourite in what very well may be her final Olympics. In the heavyweight category, no one is a more exciting fighter. Ortiz will hold the hopes of her small island nation upon her shoulders.

The Judo events will get underway from the 24th of July through to the 31st of July. The final day’s competition will see perhaps the most exciting match in the mixed team event. Medal events will occur each day, meaning every day is a must-watch for Judo fans. Amazingly the event will be held in the same stadium that the Judo was held in at the 1964 Olympics. 

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