Edition No. 24. Autumn, 2000. Today is
Preview to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia
Men - 81kg, 90kg, 100kg, +100kg
Women - 63kg, 70kg, 78kg, +78kg

By: Barnaby Chesterman

Men -81kg

This is another category similar to -66kg with many fighters in with a chance. World champion, Graeme Randall, is as good as anyone else and his performance in Birmingham last year still has the French coaches purring with admiration. Randall also proved in Rotterdam he can still win when not at his best and he should be the one the rest fear most. Patrick Reiter of Austria has been in good form this year and he should pose the strongest threat to Randall. He won 'A' tournaments in Leonding and Prague and until Birmingham he was like an Indian sign over Randall. The Portuguese former European champion, Nuno Delgado, and the Uzbek World silver medallist, Farkhod Turaev, both have impressive physiques for this weight but both flopped in their continental championships this year. Reigning champion, Djamel Bouras of France was more suited to -78kg and the step up to -81kg has not helped him. He is likely to figure in the latter stages but won't win. Serguei Aschwanden of Switerland was very impressive in winning the Europeans and I like the look of the Estonain, Alexsei Budolin. He and Randall had a terrific battle in Rotterdam and Budolin caused many problems for the Scot. I expect a strong challenge from Asia in this one, particularly the dangerous Iranian, Kazem Sarikhani. He was electric in the Asian Championships and will probably surprise the Europeans in Sydney. The two Koreans, Ok Chol Kwak and In-Chul Cho won bronze medals in Birmingham and I fancy them to progress further than the Japanese fighter Makoto Takimoto. He has a strong upright stance but could not handle the unusual style of Sarikhani. A battler like Randall would probably maul him. Ruslan Seilkhanov of Kazakhstan could cause a few surprises. He finished second in the Asian Championships and also did well at the Worlds. He won't win gold but he has the ability to upset the top fighters.

Women -63kg

If Sung Sook Jung of Korea does not win this category I will jump off a bridge into Sydney harbour. Now I'm terrified of heights and I can't swim, so trust me, I'm pretty sure. In Paris this year she destroyed the top two European fighters, Gella Vandecaveye of Belgium and Severine Vandenhende of France, and in the Asian Championships she thrashed the World champion, Keiko Maeda of Japan. Jung was World champion in 1995 at -61kg but is fighting better than ever this year. Gella Vandecaveye is the best bet to challenge Jung. With six European titles and a World championship to her name, the Olympics is the one she is yet to win. Jung threw her twice for waza-ari in Paris and looks in a class of her own. Maeda surprisingly fought in the Asian Championships when all the other Japanese pre-Olympic qualifiers rested. She was thrown for ippon by Jung and would currently appear third favourite. Vandenhende is fighting as well as she did when she won the World Championship in 1997 but she is unlikely to top the pile at the Olympics; the others seem to have the beating of her. Neither she nor Jung will be seeded though so the draw will play a vital role in the destination of medals. Anna Saraeva of Russia had a good season in the 'A' tournaments and also took bronze at the Europeans. She could figure in the medals but Karen Roberts would need to reproduce her battling displays from last year's Worlds to get a medal. Her form has not been good this year but with a good draw a bronze is a possibility and would be an excellent achievement. The Chinese number one last year was Xiaofang Sun and she finished 7th at the Worlds. But she only managed 5th at the Asian Championships this year, although she only lost to the classy North Korean, Kyong Sun Ji, and Maeda. Her place must be under threat from Shufang Li who won the last two 'A' tournaments of the year and looks a much better bet for Olympic glory.

Men -90kg

World champion Hidehiko Yoshida of Japan is getting on a bit now but will be looking for a final swansong. He won the -78kg gold in Barcelona in 1992 and finally landed his first world title last year. His uchi-mata is a powerful weapon but his legs must be wilting by now. My favourite is the European champion, Adrian Croitoru of Romania. He took the rest apart in Wroclaw and not even Mark Huizinga of the Netherlands could match him in the final. Croitoru is pure class but this gold was his first at major championships. Now he has bridged the gap to the top tier of the rostrum I expect him to stay there. Yosvanne Despaigne of Cuba is my next favourite. He took two 'A' tournament titles this year and keeps improving. He has a powerful physique and has proved he can beat anyone in Europe. The Brazilian, Carlos Honorato, has an amazing physique and proved in coming fifth at the Worlds that he knows how to use it. I think he was a bit of a surprise package there, though. In Paris this year he lost his opening fight and I don't expect him to catch the rest unawares this time. Likewise Victor Florescu of Moldova. He was a surprise in Birmingham, winning silver but I don't expect him to do as well in Sydney. Huizinga will be a threat and Ruslan Mashurenko of Ukraine has looked strong this year. But I think the strongest challenges to Croitoru and Despaigne will come from Asia. Sergey Sgakimov of Kazakhstan came fifth at the Worlds but lost to the number two Korean, Dong-Sik Yoon at the Asian Championships. Yoon won but the number one, Sung Yeon Yoo, will be at the Games. He should figure strongly, as will the beastly Uzbek, Kamol Murodov. He is a frightening looking creature and will scare most opponents into submission. I expect him and Yoo to win medals.

Women's -70kg

This should be a three-way fight but Sibelis Veranes of Cuba must be favourite. She is the World champion and also won four 'A' tournaments this year plus a silver. She has suffered two surprising defeats including one in the final in Warsaw against Andrea Pazoutova of the Czech Republic. That was definitely something of a fluke as it was the only top eight place Pazoutova managed this year and she was destroyed by 19-year-old Amanda Costello in Rotterdam. Ulla Werbrouck of Belgium will be one of two fighters defending an Olympic title in this weight. Werbrouck, the second of the three, looked masterful in Paris this year and threw opponents at will with her uchi-mata but she has been disappointing since and fell completely flat in her European Championship semi-final against Ursula Martin of Spain. If she puts it together on the day Werbrouck can be unstoppable but Veranes rarely loses. The other defending champion will be Min-Sun Cho of Korea. The weight categories have changed since Atlanta and while Werbrouck shed a couple of kilos to fight at -70kg, Cho has stepped up from -66kg. Although a possible medallist and despite being a double World champion at the previous weight, she does not look as comfortable at this weight. She also looked a bit flat in her Asian Championships semi-final against Masae Ueno of Japan. Ueno could cause a surprise with her rugged style but I doubt she can win. The third of the three favourites is Kate Howey. She was dynamic at the Europeans until a surprising defeat in the final against Martin. The Spaniard may be European champion but she just does not look like an Olympic champion to me. Howey is a far better bet but she will have to beat Veranes for the first time to lift the title. It would be a fairytale story but history is not on her side. The only other likely medallist is Ioulia Kouzina of Russia who had a strong season in the 'A' tournaments. She may win a medal but certainly won't top the rostrum.

Men -100kg

This is about a battle for silver. Most people have already hung the gold medal around the neck of the incomparable Kosei Inoue of Japan. He is still just 20-years-old but already a convincing World Champion and resounding winner at the Tournoi de Paris. Inoue is well on his way to legendary status in the annals of great judo champions and it is a pure pleasure just to watch him perform. Inoue became World champion at just 19 years of age but even in a category brimming with talent he shines like a polished diamond. Inoue looked untouchable in Paris and threw every opponent for ippon. The old warhorse and bronze medallist in Birmingham, Nicolas Gill of Canada, lasted just 32 seconds and only Armen Bagdasarov of Uzbekistan lasted any great length of time. But he finally fell for the last time, he had already been thrown for koka, yuko and waza-ari. Inoue has a magnificent seoi-nage, an even better ouchi-gari and the best of the lot is his unstoppable uchi-mata. The man is a genius and destined for greatness. It will not happen at the Olympics, but I would love to see him fight in the Open at next year's World Championships. As for the rest, there are a lot of brilliant young fighters who could take home a medal. Sung-Ho Jang of Korea won silver in Birmingham and will be a favourite to take home the same colour from Sydney. Stephane Traineau of France beat Jang in Paris and he probably remains the greatest threat to Inoue. Traineau is a former World and European champion but won only bronze at the last Olympics. The champion in Atlanta was Pawel Natula of Poland and he still has a chance but he has not been at his best this season. Both Traineau and Jang have beaten him this year. Alexandre Mikhailine of Russia will be an interesting contender. He has only fought at +100kg this year and his number two, Iouri Stepkine just won the European Championships in convincing style. Mikhailine was a surprise medallist last year in Birmingham but the rest will be ready for him this time. Dutchman Ben Sonnemans has not been in the best of form this year having come back from a bad knee injury. He was beaten in the first round in both Paris and the Europeans. A gold in Budapest shows he is still a threat but a medal would be a surprise.

Women -78kg

I see this as a two-way contest between the World Championship finalists from last year. Yufeng Yin of China and World champion, Noriko Anno of Japan, have better throwing ability than the top Europeans. Yin won the Asian Championships comfortably and even though she was beaten in the final in Munich (by the home fighter, Uta Kuehnen) she has plenty of throws in her repetoir. Likewise Anno so expect them to meet in the final. I fancy to reverse the outcome from last year and snatch Olympic gold. The best European bets are double European champion and World bronze medallist, Celine Lebrun of France, and Chloe Cowan. Neither can throw like the two Asians but they made comfortable progress to the final in Wroclaw. Cowan seems to get better every time I see her fight and with a kind draw she is a good bet for a medal in Sydney. She seems strong when she fights and often dominates in ne-waza. Lebrun can justifiably claim to be the strongest European fighter but she was slammed for ippon by Michelle Rogers in Paris. The strongest threat to the Asians will probably come from two Pan-Americans. Diadenis Luna of Cuba has been strangely absent from the European scene this year while her team-mates have been monopolising the top step of the rostrums. Luna is a former World champion, though, and a bronze medallist from the last Games so if she is fit and fighting she could get a medal. Another who has a good chance is the Brazilian, Edinanci Silva, who seems very strong for a woman! She won in Paris and as long as all the right bits are in the right places, she will be a danger. Kuehnen, Simona Richter of Romania, Emmanuella Pierantozzi of Italy and Heidi Rakels of Belgium have all done well in the 'A' tournaments this year with two victories apiece. Any one could be a medallist but they would need a good draw and with the strength in Asian and Pan-America any European medallist would be a good result.

Men +100kg

Japanese World champion Shinichi Shinohara will start as the favourite here. He was the king in Birmingham, winning both his category and the Open. Shinohara is just the latest in a long line of stunning Japanese heavyweights and if climbs the top tier of the rostrum in Australia it won't be a surprise. Dennis van der Geest of the Netherlands came of age in the Europeans this year when he destroyed Tamerlan Tmenov of Russia in the final. The big son of the animated coach, Kor, has all the ability to take the gold but he will need to find the consistent throws he produced in Wroclaw. Tmenov is a good bet. Despite being small for a heavyweight he seems to relish fighting bigger men and the manner in which he disposed of the 200+kg Ukrainian, Valentin Ruslyakov, was incredible. Another 200kg fighter, Open champion at the Europeans, Aythami Ruano of Spain, will be a danger if he is selected ahead of Ernesto Perez. Ruano produced two stunning harai-goshi ippons to beat Selim Tataroglu of Turkey and the German, Frank Moeller. He is still young but when he gets his ample frame behind a harai-goshi, neither experience nor skill would be enough to avoid it. Although he had a disappointing Europeans, Perez won two 'A' tournaments this year and took silver in Atlanta. He should still be selected by the Spanish so I imagine the rest will allow themselves a sigh of relief. Tataroglu has a chance but he does not look in the best of form. The giant Chinese, Song Pan, and the Cuban Angel Sanchez are better bets. Few can combat Pan's sheer size (unlike Ruano he is pure muscle) while Sanchez has enjoyed a fair amount of success in the 'A' tournaments this year. The Estonian World silver-medallist, Indrek Pertelson, has the experience to be among the medals but the big question will be concerning the reigning champion David Douillet. The French say he will fight if he recovers from his back injury but it is a long while since he competed at the top level. If his head is right it could be a magnificent swan-song but it is difficult to even predict whether or not he will fight.

Women +78kg

The best heavyweight fighter I have seen this year is undoubtedly Hua Yuan of China. She did the practically impossible in Paris and threw Sandra Koeppen of Germany right over her head with standing seoi-nage for ippon. Koeppen certainly could not believe it and took a long time to get up. Yuan has replaced the reigning champion Fumming Sun as the top Chinese fighter and she has excellent technique for a heavyweight. Koeppen won three 'A' tournaments this year and also finished second twice. Her toughest battle for Olympic qualification was to be the number one German as both Katja Gerber and Johanna Hagn also won 'A' tournaments. Koeppen should be Yuan's nearest challenger and has a lot of power. Daima Beltran of Cuba was not quite matching her team-mates in Europe this year and her best results were three bronze medals. As the Open champion from Birmingham she cannot be discounted but her best results come in the Open weight when second choice fighters often compete. The top Japanese, Miho Ninomiya took two medals in Birmingham and will figure prominently again. The enormous World champion, Beata Maksymov of Poland, will be in with a chance if not only because of her sheer size but also her experience. She won her first World Championship medal eighteen years ago and she must be considered one of the favourites. The most likely European will probably be Karina Bryant. She won her second continental title in Wroclaw and also took bronze at last year's Worlds. She has a leaner physique than the average voluptuous heavyweight and she can throw with techniques the others cannot even attempt. Bryant should bring home a gong and I think she will pose the strongest challenge to Yuan. One fighter who deserves a mention is Heba Hefny of Egypt, not least because she is Africa's best chance of a medal. Hefny has one technique, maki-komi, but her sheer size and low centre of gravity make it relatively effective. She is unlikely to win a medal but it could happen and it would be nice for Africa.


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1996 Atlanta
Olympic Games



Sun-Hi Kye (KOR)

Marie-Claire Restoux (FRA)

Driulis Gonzalez (CUB)

Yuko Emoto (JPN)

Min-Sun Cho (KOR)

Ulla Werbrouck (BEL)

Fuming Sun (CHN)


Tadahiro Nomura (JPN)

Udo Quellmalz (GER)

Kenzo Nakamura (JPN)

Djamel Bouras (FRA)

Jeon Ki Young (KOR)

Pawel Mastula (POL)

David Douillet (FRA)

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