Over 400 judoka in Para-Judo after IBSA Asian Championships

This weekend a record was set in Astana. Since the introduction of the new categories in 2022, the number of athletes reached a milestone of over 400 judoka for para-judo.

After the Tokyo Paralympic Games, para-judo was completely restructured. Before then the former B1, B2 and B3 categories (from blind and almost blind to less visually impaired) were always combined in competition. As a result, the number of B1 and B2 athletes remained quite small as they were struggling against more sighted opponents.

For the new cycle, the categories are split for J1 and J2 athletes. This means the sport is fairer for the blind and almost completely blind. The stricter rules and the new split also meant that some B3 athletes, the athletes with most sight, were no longer eligible to compete and so, logically, at first, there was a drop in numbers. However, at each competition we are seeing new athletes. During the last grand prix, in Egypt, we saw 166 athletes from 33 countries competing. During the Asian Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, another twenty new judoka were registered, which makes the total number of athletes in para-judo over 400. Over 50% of these athletes compete in the J1 category, which has shown the biggest growth.

Janos Tardos, Chairman of IBSA Judo, one of the people responsible for the development of Para-judo, noticed two important things in Astana, “We see not only new judoka but also more diversity. New countries are included with, step by step, better judoka. I see that India is growing. They collected a stunning 2 silver and 4 bronze medals this weekend, but there are other examples. I met the team of Indonesia four years ago with only two athletes. They were not aware of the exact rules or possible competitions. This weekend, I saw skilled athletes and two bronze medals for Indonesia. The team of Kyrgyzstan asked for a wildcard for the Tokyo Paralympic Games but nowadays they have strong athletes, including the new Asian champion Khaiitkhon Khusan Kyzy.” The second comment Mr Tardos wants to make is about the organisation in Kazakhstan, “For me it’s no surprise that Kazakhstan organised a really high level competition. They are a big judo nation and there is a lot of support from the government. There were several aspects that created a great atmosphere in Astana. One aspect is the look and feel of the venue. It’s all of a high standard, similar to IJF events. Another aspect is the staff. They are professional and punctual in everything they do. We have people who are knowledgeable and responsible for the different parts of the competition.” Nusa Lampe, IJF Education and Coaching Commissioner and first-time event technical director for Para-judo, is equally enthusiastic, “It’s great to work with the local organisers, you see that they have experience. I was surprised and pleased to see a full house for the opening ceremony and final block. There are approximately a thousand people here and the Minister of Sport is present. It creates a great atmosphere for everybody.” 

Para-judo is still in development but is growing step by step. Ms Lampe believes that the support of the International Judo Federation is crucial for Para-judo, “The IJF supports with staff, equipment and knowledge. I believe, thanks to this support, we will be at the same level as the IJF in the future.” Janos Tardos adds, “We are constantly thinking about the next step for further development. One of these steps is organising more regional, strong competitions, like the small country challenge in Finland. My idea is to organise these in other regions as well, to make the sport more accessible to the countries with fewer funding opportunities. My dream is to organise a big international training camp for Para-judo, similar to those we see for sighted athletes. Let’s not forget to appreciate the milestones that we are achieving, though, right now, like the number of athletes we now have registered.” Nusa concludes, “It’s a nice journey to be on.”

Last weekend the IBSA Asian Championships took place in Astana, Kazakhstan. During the competition, the favourites didn’t disappoint. Of the four current world champions that were active this weekend, three of them declared themselves Asian champion at the end of their competition day. Seyed Meysam Banitaba Khorram Abadi (IRI), Yergali Shamey (KAZ) and Vahid Jeddi (IRI) all took gold. The biggest upset of the weekend was for current world champion Akmaral Nauatbek of Kazakhstan who took silver in the individual competition. A penalty for a head dive changed her status from undefeated in IBSA judo. She compensated for her loss by stepping up to the J2 -57kg beating her 9kg heavier opponent Kumushkhon Khodjaeva of Uzbekistan and taking the win for her team. Kazakhstan finished on top of the medal podium overall by taking 4 golds in the individual competition and taking both men’s and women’s team gold. Uzbekistan also took 4 gold in the individual competition and ended up with two silvers in the team competition. There were also gold medals for the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. 

More information about the event: https://ibsajudo.sport/

Images of the event: