Even without Majlinda Kelmendi the U52kg category is very interesting. Before the Kelmendi era, this division was actually quite boring, but over the last decade the level increased and the competition is tremendous.
In Baku the Japanese couple Abe and Shishime are the heavy favourites, but with a strong Natalia Kuziutina of Russia Shishime might have a tough opponent in the quarter final. Erika Miranda (BRA) can be up and down but usually goes for the medal.
Amandine Buchard (FRA) will probably top Pool A while Abe (JPN) will probably top Pool B. We don’t know yet the power of Odette Giuffrida, Olympia’s runner-up.
In Pool B Uta Abe has the capabilities to convert her Junior world title into the senior world title. She has quite a good draw of judoka who have a good level, but likely lower level. Can she stand the pressure?
Pool C is a tough one with many interesting players there. Top seed in this pool is Natalia Kuziutina (RUS) but in her pool are Andreea Chitu (ROU), making a comeback and last year watching the event from the tribune. Evelyne Tschopp (SUI), a darkhorse, and Shishime (JPN), the defending World champion. We believe Shishime will prevail.
Pool D will be a toss up between Miranda (BRA) and Van Snick (BEL). They've fought twice, with one win each.
In the first semifinal we think it's Abe who will get through. She's fought Buchard three times, most recently in the final of the 2018 Paris Grand Slam, and she won each time.
In the other semifinal, whether it's Miranda or Van Snick she fights, we think Shishime will get through.
It's potentially and Abe vs Shishime final and if it comes down to that, we think it will be Abe that brings home the gold for Japan.