The IJF World Tour is not far from the start in Portugal’s Odivelas, an area close to Lisbon. The World Judo Tour will have action for 300 days and new stars will show their potential. JudoInside identifies potential winners in the IJF World Tour based on its data insights forecast. Here are 5 female talents to watch this year.
Another youngster from Russia is showing stunning results. Lightweight Irena Khubulova became the Junior European Champion in 2021. She was Youth Olympic Champion in 2018 in Buenos Aires. She claimed various Cadet European Cups and progressed well in the juniors. She took the Junior European title in 2019 in Vaantaa and silver at the European U23 Championships in Porec in 2020. This year she broke through with a bronze medal at the Grand Slam in Kazan in 2021 and was again on the podium with silver at the Junior World Championships in 2021 in Olbia. Keep an eye on this one.
What is remarkable is that some really young athlete can be so mature in difficult weight categories. The category U78kg is dominated by Anna-Maria Wagner, the current World Champion but her compatriot Anna-Monta Olek is rising like a rocket. She captured the Junior world title in 2021 in Olbia and she became the Junior European Champion in 2021 both in heavy competition with another talent Yael van Heemst (NED) who both show their faces in the Grand Slams this season. Olek was already a talent when she was 14, then fighting U57kg but rapidly moved to the U70kg class. Since 2020 she stepped up to U78kg as eventually she had the height for it but it’s hugely competitive, let alone in Germany itself with five women in the top 40 of the IJF World Ranking. Olek has it, but can she yet harvest in 2022?
Joanne Van Lieshout
Another Junior World Champion who just turned 19 is Dutch rookie Joanne Van Lieshout. She was the youngest female World Champion last year. She also claimed the European U23 title in 2020 in Porec and you could see her talent rising at the EYOF in Baku in 2019. As a daughter of two judoka it is not a surprise that she took all Dutch youth titles. However in the Netherlands the category U63kg is also under competition with Sanne Vermeer on the front seat. Geke van den Berg will also rival with Van Lieshout but the majority of the competition can be found abroad with booming youngsters as Szofi Ozbas and Anja Obradovic in a category where maturity is needed.
Maturity is also the case in the category U57kg where veterans still rock. Still there is enough space for young athletes such as Kerem Primo to develop. Israels Primo became the Junior European Champion in 2021. She claimed a silver medal at the Junior World Championships in 2021 in Olbia. Also Kerem, youngster sister Gefen, was successful as a cadet judoka but last year she was one of the prodigies bagging a bronze medal at the European Open in Zagreb in 2021. This year she will feel more bathwater at Grand Slams and likely fight for the medals in a weight category where young talent can ripe such as Primo, Faiza Mokdar, Marica Perisic and Japan’s Akari Omori.
We wonder if Japanese lightweight Wakana Koga also get a chance in the IJF World Tour. She already captured the gold medal at the Grand Slam in Paris in 2021 and became world silver medallist in 2021 in Budapest. Koga belongs the absolute world top and won international medals in Montreal and Osaka and Junior World title in Marrakech in 2019. Although she lost to Daria Bilodid in the Paris final in 2020, she really gave her a tough match. This tiny youngster may lift off in 2022 if she gets the chance.