Quick aside to MMA fans: We’re probably not looking for the next Ronda Rousey here. Not many people are that good at landing the armbar and marketing themselves. But maybe the next Rick Hawn? Dude’s doing pretty well in Bellator.
In any case, the USA has someone who can do even better than Rousey in Olympic judo — Kayla Harrison, the 2010 world champion.
Check out the previous picks and some rankings — the Olympic qualification rankings and the overlapping current world rankings, which will tell you the World Championship results in very small type. Or you could just check the World Championship results in a separate window.
Now see if you can figure out who actually made the teams. Countries with more than one qualifier had to pick one somehow. In the process of trying to figure it out, I stumbled into a great not-quite-safe-for-work Uncyclopedia entry that explains the brutality of judo: “You are never unarmed when you can hit someone with a planet.” You could also check the European Judo Federation, where you’ll see headlines like “Europe example of good refereeing.”
But finally — we’re rescued! The International Judo Federation tells us who’s in!
Off we go, and remember that they award two bronze medals in each weight class.
60 kg: Uzbekistan’s Rishod Sobirov is the dominator. Olympic bronze, two straight world titles, top spot in the rankings, everything. Japan’s Hiroaki Hiraoka has a couple of World Championship podiums and is ranked third, good enough for Japan to select him ahead of second-ranked Hirofumi Yamamoto got it. Russia also had a selection dilemma, and it appears they’ve taken fifth-ranked Arsen Galstyan over sixth-ranked Beslan Mudranov. Ukraine’s Georgii Zantaraia is the interloper in the rankings at No. 4, though two Korean judokas reached the semifinals at Worlds. We’ll stick with the original picks: Uzbekistan, Japan, Ukraine, Russia
66 kg: Oh no! Tsagaanbaatar Hashbaatar of Mongolia has fallen out of the top spot after a disappointing run at 2011 Worlds, where Japan’s Masashi Ebinuma beat Brazil’s Leandro Cunha for the title. Russia’s Alim Gadanov has the top spot in the rankings but won’t be going to London — No. 2 Musa Mogushkov got the spot. Projection was MGL-JPN-BRA-RUS; now Russia, Japan, Brazil, Mongolia
73 kg: South Korea’s Ki-Chun Wang lost his world title last year but holds a narrow lead in the rankings over Japan’s Riki Nakaya. Wang was upset early; Nakaya beat the Netherlands’ Dex Elmont in the final. They’re a solid top three. The rankings get tight after that, but we’re taking France’s Ugo Legrand, who defeated Wang and made it to the semis at Worlds. The USA’s Nick Delpopolo ranks 16th despite a second-round loss at Worlds. Was KOR-JPN-BEL-NED; now Japan, South Korea, France, Netherlands
81 kg: World champion Jae-Bum Kim of South Korea ranks second behind Brazil’s Leandro Gulheiro. Then it’s a close race for third between Azerbaijan’s Elnur Mammadli, who won gold at 73 kg in Beijing, and Germany’s Ole Bischof, the defending gold medalist in this class. Montenegro’s Srdjan Mrvaljevic beat Gulheiro in the 2011 semifinals but isn’t in the top 10 on the Olympic list. American Travis Stevens is. Was KOR-BRA-GBR-JPN; now South Korea, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Germany
90 kg: Greece’s Ilias Iliadis won gold at 81 kg in 2008, and he isn’t having much trouble in this weight class — world title, top ranking. Japan has so much talent in this class that third-ranked Masashi Nishiyama has earned the spot over world runner-up Daiki Nishiyama and third-place finisher Takashi Ono. Russia’s Kiril Denisov has been a consistent podium finisher or challenger at Worlds, though he lost a podium spot last year to Cuba’s Asley Gonzalez. The rankings tell us to watch for Uzbekistan’s Dilshod Choriev and Georgia’s Varlam Liparteliani. Was JPN-RUS-KOR-AZE; now Greece, Japan, Russia, Cuba
100 kg: This one’s a little muddled. Russia’s Tagir Khaybulaev is the world champion, which explains why Russia is sending him instead of higher-ranked Sergei Samoilovich. Our pick last time, Japan’s Takamasa Anai, is ranked third but has been maddeningly inconsistent, losing in the early rounds at the 2011 Worlds. Dutchman Henk Grol is ranked second and has a few major podium finishes, including bronze in Beijing. Top-ranked Maxim Rakov of Kazakhstan was second at Worlds. A Mongolian won this weight class last time, and Tuvshinbayer Naidan comes in with the fourth seed. American Kyle Vashkulat squeaked into the Olympic field. We’re going out on a limb and sticking with the original picks: Japan, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Russia
+100 kg: France’s Teddy Riner is the man — five world championships, plus bronze in Beijing. World runner-up Andreas Toelzer (Germany) is ranked second. Egypt’s Islam El Shebaby maintains fourth in the rankings despite a first-round ouster at Worlds. The other contenders: Brazil’s Rafael Silva (ranked third), South Korea’s Sung-Min Kim (ranked fifth, third at Worlds), Russia’s Alexander Mikhaylin (ranked sixth, third at Worlds). Was FRA-EGY-GER-JPN; now France, Germany, Egypt, Brazil
48 kg: Tomoko Fukumi, the world runner-up, may have received the Japanese berth through an injury to world champion Haruna Asami. But Fukumi is no second-stringer. She’s ranked No. 1, and in Asami’s absence, she has nearly doubled the ranking points of the next-best judoka going to London, Brazil’s Sarah Menezes. Beijing gold medalist Alina Dumitru is still in the top five, just behind Belgium’s Charlene Van Snick. We’ll keep an eye out for Hungary’s Eva Csernoviczki, who beat Van Snick for third at Worlds and is ranked sixth. Was JPN-ROU-BRA-KOR; now Japan, Brazil, Romania, Belgium
52 kg: Top-ranked Yuka Nishida of Japan … isn’t competing. Japan’s spot goes instead to third-ranked Misato Nakamura, who barely trails Mongolia’s Bundmaa Munkhbaatar for the top ranking among those actually prepping to battle in London. Brazil’s Erika Miranda and Algeria’s Soraya Haddad are next on the list, though they didn’t make the top six at Worlds. Haddad, though, got bronze in Beijing. If you’re willing to shake off results from Worlds as a mere question of when athletes had to face one of the Japanese favorites, the rankings might be a better predictor here, anyway. Was JPN-MGL-RUS-ESP; now Japan, Mongolia, Brazil, Algeria
57 kg: If you’re already getting bored with seeing Japan ranked first, skip this class. Aiko Sato won the world title, and yet she has been omitted in favor of top-ranked Kaori Matsumoto. Portugal’s Telma Monteiro is at least relatively close in the rankings. Then it’s Brazil’s Rafaela Silva, the world runner-up, and France’s Automne Pavia. Romania’s Corina Caprioriu is ranked sixth and fought her way through the repechage at Worlds to take third away from the USA’s Marti Malloy. The American is an outside threat — ranked 11th (10th when you remove the second Japanese judoka), and the IJF preview ranks her among the “not unknown competitors.” All right, then. Was JPN-POR-AUT-FRA; now Japan, Portugal, Brazil, Romania
63 kg: Japan’s Yoshie Ueno … lost in the world final! We have a competitive weight class! Ueno did retake the top ranking from world champion Gevrise Emane of France, but it’s close. Slovenia’s Urska Zolnir isn’t far back. Then it’s a drop to China’s Xu Lili, but note that one third-place match at Worlds was all-Dutch affair. 2008 bronze medalist Elisabeth Willeboordse, fifth in the Olympic ranking list, lost that one but took the Olympic berth anyway. Was JPN-FRA-GER-NED; now Japan, France, Slovenia, Netherlands
70 kg: Ronda Rousey’s former home had no Japanese judokas in the semifinals at Worlds, though Yoriko Kunihara emerged from the repechage to take a share of third. (Naturally, she lost her spot on the Japanese team to third-ranked Haruka Tachimoto.) France’s Lucie Decosse was a silver medalist at 63 kg in Beijing, and she has the world title and top spot in the world rankings here. The Netherlands’ Edith Bosch, who shared bronze with Rousey in Beijing, was the world runner-up and second in the rankings. The other spot on our projected podium is a tough call between athletes from (in ranking order) Slovenia, South Korea, China and Hungary, but we’ll give it the latter (Anett Meszaros) because she has repeatedly made it to the podium at Worlds. Was FRA-HUN-KOR-JPN; now France, Netherlands, Hungary, Japan
78 kg: Kayyyyla. No, Eric Clapton probably won’t show up to serenade her, but the USA’s Kayla Harrison won the world title in 2010 and will get plenty of attention, having shared her frightening story of sex abuse. She was on the podium again in 2011, taking third behind Japan’s Akari Ogata and France’s Audrey Tcheumeo. Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar took the other spot on the 2011 podium. The rankings: Aguiar, Ogata, Tcheumeo, Harrison. Looks like we have our projected podium. Was CHN-JPN-USA-FRA; now Brazil, Japan, USA, France
+78kg: China had the selection dilemma here, with Olympic and world champion Tong Wen getting the nod over world runner-up (and top-ranked) Qin Qian. Then it’s Japan’s Mika Sugimoto, third at Worlds and second on the Olympic list. Russia’s Elena Ivashchenko took the other spot on the 2011 podium and is fourth on the Olympic list behind Slovenia’s Lucija Polavder, a bronze medalist in Beijing along with Cuba’s Idalys Ortiz. Was JPN-SLO-CHN-CUB; now China, Japan, Russia, Cuba