JudoInside – News – Changing weight classes for men doesn’t guarantee success

At the 2022 Antalya Grand Slam, something amazing happened. Italy’s Manuel Lombardo entered the final. This in itself is not surprising. Lombardo is a top player who has beaten some of the best players in the world. Interestingly, he did U73kg, which is a whole new weight class for him. Often, players take longer to get used to fighting heavier opponents.

Also in Antalya, Nikoloz Sherazadishvili, the Spanish double champion left his mark in his new U100kg category and reached the final immediately. It’s a confrontation between two-time world champions Sherazadishvili vs Jorge Fonseca. They know each other very well, but have two completely different styles that clash on Antalya’s tatami. Tall Sherazadishvili has put on weight and his life is back because the category suits him well. That is comparable to another tall, former world number one Serb Aleksandar Kukolj, who won bronze in Turkey on Sunday. He had some difficulties on his way into this category but moved in October 2020 and a year later he still qualified for the Olympics thanks to his silver medal at the World Championships in Budapest, which is his last chance. Sherazadishvili’s road appears to be much smoother, and he has been tweaking details to beat the elite U100kg. Jorge Fonseca took the gold convincingly and stood on the podium as the youngest man with the biggest smile.

However, not all top players are able to successfully upgrade to the new weight class. A good example is Rishod Sobirov of Uzbekistan, a two-time world champion and Asian Games champion in the U60kg category. In 2012, he rose to the U66 kg category, but was unsuccessful. Of his 10 IJF World Tour gold medals, 8 were in the U60kg category. Sobirov did win gold at the 2014 Tashkent Grand Prix and the 2015 Samsun Grand Prix, but those were not major events.

A U60kg player, Sobirov has won an impressive four Grand Slam gold medals and two World Masters medals. However, as a U66kg player, he can no longer win any Grand Slams or world titles, although he has been active in 2016.

Lifting weight classes is very common. As judo athletes age, they tend to gain weight. In fact, many people successfully adjust to the new weight class. For example, the late great Toshihiko Koga started his senior competition career in the U71 kg class and won an Olympic gold medal and two world titles in that weight class. He later moved up to the U78kg category and won another world title and an Olympic silver medal with his new weight. Koga’s compatriot Hidehiko Yoshida is another successful weightlifter. He won an Olympic gold medal in the U78kg category and a world championship in the U86kg category.

Winning more than one Olympic gold medal in judo is a rare thing, but winning two gold medals in two different weight classes is even more so. In 1988, Poland’s Waldemar Legien won his first Olympic gold medal in the U78 kg category and his second Olympic gold medal in the U86 kg category in 1992.

Lukas Krpalek of the Czech Republic has done something even more amazing. Not only did he win two Olympic titles in two different weight classes, he also won two world championships in two different weight classes. His first world title was won in the U100kg category in 2014, and he later won it again in the +100kg category in 2019. As for the Olympics, his first gold medal was in the U100kg category in 2016, and later, he won his second +100kg gold medal in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

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