Written by Callum MacLennan on 24. May 2024
Photographs by Emanuele Di Feliciantonio, Tamara Kulumbegashvili
The mixed team event has been a highlight of the World Judo Championships ever since the introduction of the format in 2017. The sixth and final day of the Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024 saw the 7thedition of this event play out at the Mubadala Arena in the UAE capital. A total of 13 teams and 146 athletes from 3 continents competed for the right to call themselves mixed team world champions. Japan and France had contested 5 of the previous 6 finals and it was a familiar story in Abu Dhabi.

World champions, Team Japan.

In pool A, Germany was drawn to take on Kazakhstan in round 1 and they edged the match 4-2 with Jan Ruebo winning the final point at -73 kg, defeating Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam 2024 bronze medallist Darkhan Koibagar. Unfortunately for the Germans, they progressed to face Japan in the quarter-final, where they were soundly beaten 4-0, the highlight being the victory of Kanta Nakano over Erik Abramov at +90 kg. Nakano threw the German with a lightning-fast sasae-tsurikomi-ashi, scoring ippon just 8 seconds into the contest.

Bronze medal contest, Italy vs Uzbekistan.

Bronze medal contest, Italy vs Uzbekistan

Bronze medal contest, Italy vs Uzbekistan

The first match of pool B was between 4th seeds Brazil and 2021 bronze medallists Uzbekistan and ended 4-2 to the latter; they progressed thanks to impressive victories from Diyora Keldiyorova and Sharofiddin Boltaboev, with both athletes defeating opponents from a higher weight category. They would face the Republic of Korea in the quarter-final, after the Koreans overcame Austria by 4 points to 1 in pool B’s other round 1 match. Uzbekistan went 2-0 up thanks to wins from Boltaboev and Rinata Ilmatova but the refusal of Jonghoon Won to compete at +90 kg caused the Republic of Korea to be disqualified from the event. As a result, Uzbekistan moved into the semi-final.

Bronze medallist, Team Italy

Pool C’s only round 1 match saw the Netherlands take on Italy in a thrilling encounter. The teams were level at 3-3 after six contests and the -70kg category was drawn to re-fight. Kim Polling, having recently switched to Italy from the Netherlands, couldn’t hold back her tears after she defeated her former teammate Hilde Jager for the second time in the match to put Italy through. The Netherlands faced the number two seeds France in the quarter-final. Though there were several tight contests, the French eventually took a 4-1 victory to move into the semi-final.

Bronze medal contest, Germany vs Georgia

Bronze medal contest, Germany vs Georgia

Bronze medallist, Team Georgia

Bronze medallist, Team Georgia

Down in pool D, Hungary earned an impressive 4-1 victory over Mongolia in round 1, which was closed out by a hard-earned victory for Reka Pupp over the heavier Ichinkhorloo Munkhtsedev at -57 kg. They advanced to take on 3rd seeds Georgia but were unable to repeat the feat as the Georgians reversed the scoreline with 4 ippon victories.

In the first semi-final, the Japanese team were dominant once again, defeating the Uzbeks 4-1. The sole victory for the Uzbek team was another highlight reel ippon featuring Nakano, but this time he was on the receiving end, as Muzaffarbek Turoboyev threw him with a thunderous obi-tori-gaeshi.

Final, Japan vs France

France and Georgia squared off in the second semi-final. Despite a commendable effort from the Georgians, the French team progressed to their sixth world final with Japan in a row with a 4-2 victory. Axel Clerget struck the final blow at -90 kg, applying gyaku-juji-jime tightly to turn and submit Luka Babutsidze.

Following the Republic of Korea’s disqualification, Germany moved directly through the repechage to face Georgia for the first bronze medal.

Final, Japan vs France

A head dive and disqualification for Johannes Frey against Guram Tushishvili got Germany off to the worst possible start. Nina Loladze and Giorgi Chikhelidze then put Georgia 3-0 up with ippon wins over Pauline Starke and Jan Ruebo, respectively. Giovanna Scoccimarro pulled one back for Germany, throwing Eter Askilashvili for waza-ari in the dying seconds of the contest, but it was all in vain, as Luka Babutsidze countered Johann Lenz to score ippon just 10 seconds into their contest. Georgia earned their second ever world mixed team bronze medal and their second in a row.

Final, Japan vs France

Manuel Parlati got the better of Bence Pongracz at -73 kg to finish off a deceptive 4-0 victory for Italy over Hungary in the second repechage match; the Italians took two slim tactical victories, the first for Gennaro Pirelli over Krisztian Toth and the second for Thauany David Capanni Dias over Pupp. Italy would take on Uzbekistan for the second bronze medal.

World champions, Team Japan

Uzbekistan began strongly with Alisher Yusupov defeating Nicolas Mungai at +90 kg. Italy replied with three wins in a row for Antonio Esposito, Capanni Dias and Irene Pedrotti. Boltaboev kept Uzbekistan’s hopes alive by defeating another heavier opponent in Lorenzo Rigano, but Asya Tavano secured the victory for Italy, submitting Rinata Ilmatova with waki-gatame to score ippon and make the final score 4-2. Italy claimed their first world mixed teams medal in their first ever participation in the event.

In the final, Japan continued their domination. First, Nakano defeated Akiano Mongo with two waza-ari scores. Momo Tamaoki then followed with a victory over Faiza Mokdar using o-uchi-gari in golden score. Ryuga Tanaka dispatched Joan-Benjamin Gaba in just 25 seconds, also with o-uchi-gari. After a six-minute contest, Margaux Pinot clawed one tactical victory back for the French but it was too little, too late. Kowei Kawabata rounded off a tremendous display, as he threw Clerget twice with seoi-nage to score ippon. Japan earned their 7th mixed teams world title in a row and continued their perfect unbeaten streak since the creation of the event.

Medals, cheques and trophies were presented by Marius Vizer, IJF President, H.E.Mohammed Bin Thaaloob Alderei, UAE Judo Federation President, Naser Al Tamimi, IJF General Treasurer and UAE Judo Federation General Secretary, Obaid Al Anzi, IJF Vice President and JUA President, Dr Laszlo Toth, IJF Vice President and EJU President, Vlad Marinescu, IJF Director General, and Max-Hervé George, CEO of Icona Capital, IJF Partner

FINAL RESULTS

1. Japan

2. France

3. Georgia

3. Italy

5. Germany

5. Uzbekistan