Day 4 of the World Judo Championships – Doha 2023, was one of the most eagerly awaited days of competition, with the hyper-competitive -63kg and -81kg categories due to take the stage at the ABHA Arena in the Qatari capital. Today marked the halfway point in what has already been a spectacular event.
France’s Clarisse Agbegnenou, already a 5-time world champion and the current Olympic champion at -63kg, made a highly anticipated return to the world championships, after sitting out of the tournament in 2022. This time round she endured 6 contests, “I haven’t had to fight that long of a day in a very long time!” said Clarisse, noting that she usually has a bye as the number one seed but in Doha she was unseeded.
This was only her second appearance on the IJF World Tour since giving birth to her daughter last year, but she proved that starting a family and competing can go hand in hand, as she stormed to an incredible sixth title, beating Andreja Leski of Slovenia in a repeat of the 2021 final. As if her legendary status needed any more confirmation, Agbegnenou becomes only the 5th judoka in history to win six world championship gold medals.
It was a tough day for the veterans of the category, as 7 of the 8 top seeds were knocked out before the quarter-final stage; the young guns in the weight class were clearly eager to make their mark. The two bronze medals were won by Joanne Van Lieshout (NED) and Szofi Ozbas (HUN), who have only 41 years between them.
The -81kg category saw the 2021 world champion Matthias Casse (BEL) and the 2022 champion Tato Grigalashvili (GEO) contest the world championship final for the 3rd year in a row. It was a match-up that many judo fans were hoping to see again and it produced the thrills we’ve come to expect from these two athletes. Grigalashvili dominated the contest from start to finish, though, eventually scoring a waza-ari around 3 minutes in. He defended his world title in style and at just 23 years of age he is just getting started.
The bronze medals were won by Tokyo Olympic champion Takanori Nagase (JPN) and 2-time grand slam winner Joonhwan Lee (KOR), with some beautiful technical judo on display from both athletes. Nagase adds a 3rd world medal to his collection, while for Lee this is his first medal at a world championship.
The end of day 4 marks the halfway point in the competition and with Japan missing a gold medal for the second day running, it is still all to play for in the overall medal rankings. Japan still lead the way with 3 gold medals but with France and Georgia packing plenty of firepower in the days to come, they could still knock the Japanese off their perch. France currently sit second, followed by Canada and Georgia, while Spain and Switzerland remain level, but now in joint 5th place.
Day 5 sees the -70kg and -90kg categories in action in Doha; two more extremely competitive and unpredictable divisions which promise yet more drama and yet more surprises. Continue to catch all the contests live from 10:30 local time on judotv.com.
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