World judokas set to converge in Doha as Qatar hosts IJF Doha Masters 2021 from January 11
Preparations are in top gear as Qatar is once again set to host the world at the International Judo Federation (IJF) Doha Masters 2021 from January 11 to 13 at the ultra-modern Lusail Multipurpose Hall in Lusail.
The 2020 Tokyo Games qualifying event will feature 370 athletes - 203 male and 167 female - from 68 countries representing five continental federations namely the African Judo Union, Judo Union of Asia, and European Judo Union, Oceania Judo Union, and Pan-American Judo Confederation.
The event is also part of the World Judo Tour.
The tournament will feature competition in seven categories for both men and women.
For the men, participants will contest in the -60kg, -66kg, -73kg, -81kg, -90kg, -100kg and +100kg categories while the women will be in action in the -48kg, -52kg, -57kg, -63kg, -70kg, -78kg and +78kg categories.
Top on the list of stars featuring in Doha is France's Teddy Riner – a two-time Olympic gold medalist and ten-time world champion in the +100kg (the first and only judoka, male or female, to do so). In his 13-year career as a professional judoka, Riner was only defeated eight times in elite international championships.
Also on the cards are Idalys Ortiz of Cuba - the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the +78kg female category, Japan's Soichi Hashimoto - world No.1 in the lightweight division and four-time World Championships gold medalist, Ukraine's Daria Bilodid - the 2019 World Champion and the 2019 European gold medalist in the 48 kg division, and Belgium's Matthias Casse - the World No.1 in -81kg and the 2019 European Games gold medalist.
Other stars on the list include Clarisse Agbegnenou of France - the 2016 Olympic silver medalist and four-time world champion in the -63 kg female category, and Egypt's Ramadan Darwish - a six-time African champion in -100kg and a bronze medalist at the 2009 World Championship in Rotterdam.
Tunisia's Nihel Cheikh Rouhou - the gold medalist in the women's +78 kg event at the 2019 African Games held in Rabat, Morocco is also set to strut her stuff at the tournament.
Qatar LOC director Eid Al - Muraikhi said, "We are delighted to welcome the world to Doha once again. We are extremely proud of being the host of this important tournament which is a qualifying event for the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Games. The tournament is happening in an unusual time occasioned by the global COVID 19 pandemic. Still, Qatar is more than ready to provide the strictest health protocols to the athletes and officials taking part in the prestigious event. The safety of everyone is our topmost priority, and all measures will not be spared, in partnership with the health authorities, to ensure an incident-free tournament."
"We are quite aware that we need to put in a lot of effort to meet the specific needs and expectations of all our stakeholders. We are very pleased to welcome our best judokas and guests in our hospitable city of Doha. Doha has always been a lively and dynamic place to discover and stage high-performance events. We are very grateful to our highest authorities for all their continued backing," Al Muraikhi added.
The Doha Masters precedes the World Championships which Qatar will host in 2023.
Al-Muraikhi thanked the IJF President Marius Vizer for "his continuous support and trust in allocating the organization of the Doha Masters event and the 2023 World Championships" to Qatar.
Meanwhile, Vizer praised Qatar's enthusiasm and commitment to sports despite the complications stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.
"As you all know, this is a complicated year. The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to modify established plans for the good of judo and the world. Now here we are, willing to continue our lives and continue to promote our beloved sport, without anything or anyone preventing us," he said.
"In that regard, I would like to thank the commitment of the Qatar Judo Federation, whose effort has been enormous, ensuring everything is ready on time. The Masters is, therefore, ready to begin! The Doha Masters is a vital qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympic Games, with the crème de la crème of the World Judo Tour battling to earn valuable points.
"It will happen in Doha, a place tied firmly to its history but that bets on the future, with its avant-garde architecture, its green spaces and its desire to be a hub of culture, sports and business. This is Doha!" said Vizer.
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