Judo World

2017 Judo World Championships: Five things we learned

CNN  — 

This year’s Judo World Championships took place in Budapest, Hungary, bringing together competitors from over 100 nations around the world.

Here’s what CNN Sport learned mat-side at the Papp László Arena.

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Japan remains the nation to beat

Japanese judoka celebrate winning Sunday's team event at the World Judo Championships

Japan won gold in seven of the 14 weight categories in Budapest, topping the medal table as it has at 19 of the last 20 Judo World Championships,

It took until day three for a champion from any other country to emerge, underlining the continuing dominance of the sport’s founding nation as it looks forward to hosting the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

READ: A guide to judo, the ‘gentle way’

“We are really looking forward to the Olympic Games in Tokyo and especially for judo,” said IOC president Thomas Bach, who watched Japan thrash Brazil 6-0 in Sunday’s mixed team competition final.

“Japan is the motherland of judo so in Tokyo the sport will play an even greater role within the Olympic family.”

A new generation, spearheaded by 20-year-old world champion Hifumi Abe, already adorn billboards across Japan.

Not that they’re taking anything for granted.

“The more you win, the more you have to lose,” coach Kōsei Inoue told CNN in Budapest.

“Japan has many great practitioners, but their journeys are just beginning. It is one thing to win just once; it is quite another to keep winning.”

“Of course, we will do everything in our power to help this new golden age perform at Tokyo 2020, but the process doesn’t end at Tokyo 2020.

“Coaches, athletes and the All Japan Judo Federation will work together to win all competitions.”

READ: How judo saved Kayla Harrison’s life

Teddy Riner can transcend judo

Teddy Riner has won the most Judo World Championship gold medals in history.

The numbers speak for themselves.

How many athletes – in any sport – have gone unbeaten for seven years?

After toppling Brazil’s David Moura in Saturday’s +100kg final, heavyweight judoka Teddy Riner now boasts nine world titles and a run of 134 consecutive victories.

The Frenchman hadn’t even stepped onto a tatami in a competitive match since winning his second Olympic final in Rio de Janerio 390 days ago.

Much has changed since — not least the very rules of judo — but his standing remains unquestioned.

Perhaps already the greatest judoka ever at the age of just 28, Riner is now beginning to cross over into mainstream fame – recently accepting a role with football club Paris Saint Germain and starring in a commercial atop La Grande Arche de La Defense with tennis star Andy Murray.

Don’t bet against him winning a tenth consecutive World Championship gold in Baku, Azerbaijan.

READ: Unbeatable Teddy Riner wins ninth world title

Mongolian judokas thrive under backing of President Battulga Khaltmaa

Mongolia's Tuvshinbayar Naidan poses on the podium alongside David Moura, Teddy Riner and Rafael Silva.

With a population of just three million and winter temperatures dropping as low as -40 degrees Celsius, Mongolia isn’t an obvious hotbed for judo talent.

That didn’t stop the east Asian nation winning six medals in Budapest, finishing behind only Japan and France in the overall standings.

Mongolia has punched above its weight ever since Tuvshinbayar Naidan (pictured) became Mongolia’s first ever Olympic champion in 2008, crowning four world champions in the years since.

Lightweight judoka Sumiya Dorjsuren became their latest hero, overcoming Japanese world No. 1 Tsukasa Yoshida in the -57kg final after over eight minutes of golden score at the Papp László Arena.

“Judo is becoming the number one sport in my country,” said Battulga Khaltmaa, a former martial arts star and head of the Mongolian Judo Federation who, this year, was elected president of the entire nation.

“In judo we bow to each other. Today we have discovered the new heroes of Mongolia.”

Anything can happen; anyone can win

Rio 2016 champions Rafaela Silva, Khasan Khalmurzaev, Majlinda Kelmendi and Fabio Basile (L-R) were unable to repeat the feat in Budapest.

A judo contest can be turned on its head in the blink of an eye.

If proceedings aren’t settled within the four minutes of regulation time, the match goes to golden score and the slightest mistake means defeat.

With over 200 million practitioners around the world and a maximum of two judoka per country in each weight category at the World Championships, the turnover is rapid and the competition is fierce.

After six days of contests across 14 weight divisions, only one reigning Olympic champion was able to win gold in Budapest.

Few sports boast judo’s diversity and global appeal

Women's middleweight judoka Maria Perez  (L) celebrates winning Puerto Rico's first ever silver medal.  Japan's Chizuru Arai, Colombia's Yuri Alvear and Spain's Maria Bernabeu join her on the podium.

The 2017 World Championships brought together 726 competitors from 126 different nations, all competing for just 14 titles.

While traditional sporting heavyweights like the United States struggled, stars from as far afield as Chinese Taipei, Panama and Kosovo reached the latter stages of their weight divisions. Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Puerto Rico all won medals.

READ: ‘My life really changed after the Olympics’ - Popole Misenga

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“Anyone can take up judo,” 8th-dan black belt and former world champion Loretta Cusack Doyle told CNN. “In a lot of countries you might not have the numbers for a cricket match or the facilities for tennis.”

“In judo, all you really need is a mat.”