to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia
A SPECIAL TWOJ REPORT:
Part 2 of 2
Men - 81kg, 90kg, 100kg, +100kg
Women - 63kg, 70kg, 78kg, +78kg
By: Barnaby Chesterman
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next Article »
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)