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Olympic judo at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

Who are the top Olympic judokas at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021? When and where will Olympic judo take place? What is the Olympic history of judo? Find out here.
By Alessandro Poggi

Judo is one of 33 sports that will take place at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

But who are the ones to watch at the 2021 showpiece?

When will competition take place, and where will it be held? Ever wanted to know about the sport’s Olympic history?

Here's our guide to the top things to know about Olympic judo.

Top Olympic judokas at Tokyo 2020

Japan is the country where judo was born and their athletes are expected to win most of the Olympic medals in front of their home crowd.

At the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo, home judokas topped the medal table with a total of 16 medals (five golds) with second-ranked France claiming six (three golds).

Pound-for-pound king Ono Shohei will likely be the favourite in the -73 kg class, arguably the most competitive weight division.

The reigning Olympic and world champion's main rival will probably be Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan, who was silver in Rio.

The Abe siblings, Hifumi and Uta, are considered the other home judo stars.

Double world champion Hifumi recently took Japan's Olympic spot in the -66 kg after beating teammate Maruyama Joshiro in an epic one-off bout.

His sister Uta has won the last two world titles in the -52 kg, losing only once in the last three years, against France's Amandine Bouchard at the Osaka Grand Slam in November 2019.

French judokas will represent a serious challenge for the local athletes in the individual and in the maiden Olympic mixed team event.

Double Olympic champion Teddy Riner is their undisputed star as he looks to make history in the heavyweight class by claiming a third consecutive gold.

France's women team look particularly strong, with -63 kg four-time world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou chasing the only major title that has eluded her so far.

Another athlete to watch in Tokyo will be Ukraine's Daria Bilodid, who at just 20 years old can boast two world championships and two European titles in the -48 kg class.

Olympic judo competition format at Tokyo 2020

A total of 386 athletes (193 men, 193 women) will qualify, with approximately 28 judokas in each weight class (7 for men, 7 for women). Each country can enter only one athlete per class.

Judo competitions will be in the form of a single-elimination tournament to determine the gold and silver medallists. The field will be split into two tables, with the winner from both tables advancing to the gold medal match. The top eight judokas in each weight class will be seeded in order to avoid top competitors facing each other early in the tournament.

The losers of the four quarter-final matches will move into the repechage. The winners of the two repechage matches then advance to separate Bronze Medal Matches, where they will each face the loser of the semi-final from the opposite table.

The mixed team event will make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021. In this format, teams of three male judoka (under 73 kg, under 100 kg, and over 100 kg) and three female judokas (under 57 kg, under 78 kg, and over 78 kg) drawn from the individual competition will join forces to become the inaugural Olympic judo team champions.

Olympic judo schedule at Tokyo 2020

The competition will take place from 24 to 31 July 2021, with the mixed event occurring on the last day. The finals of each weight class will take place as follows:

Women -48 kg and Men -60kg on 24 July, Women -52 kg and Men -66 kg on 25 July, Women -57 kg and Men -73 kg on 26 July, Women -63 kg and Men -81 kg on 27 July, Women -70 kg and Men -90 kg on 28 July, Women -78 kg and Men -100 kg on 29 July, Women +78 kg and Men +100 kg on 30 July.

Olympic judo venue at Tokyo 2020

Judo at Tokyo 2020 will take place at the Nippon Budokan, which also hosted the judo competitions at the 1964 Olympic Games.

More recently, it has staged the 2019 Judo World Championships, which served as a Tokyo 2020 test event.

Olympic judo history

Judo was first included in the Olympic Games at Tokyo 1964 as a sport for men. After its absence in 1968, the sport has been in the Olympic programme without interruption since.

Female judokas were first awarded medals at Barcelona 1992.

Judokas from 55 nations have won a medal, representing all five continents. Japan tops the all-time medal table (84, 39 golds) ahead of France (49, 14) and South Korea (43, 11).

The number of weight categories has ranged from four to eight and there are currently seven each for men and women.

Nomura Tadahiro is the only judoka to win three Olympic gold medals in a row, all in the -60 kg division.

Teddy Riner could equal his feat in Tokyo by taking his fourth consecutive Olympic medal in the heavyweight class.