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Neutral Judo Team Announced for Paris Olympics 2024: Key Selections and Prospects

Judo 2024 Paris Olympics Neutral Athletes
via Tamara Kulumbegashvili - IJF
Black Belt Plus

The lineup of neutral judo athletes, primarily Russian, has been finalized for the upcoming Paris Olympics, with notable exclusions of any competitors from Belarus. Russia, which faced a boycott and was absent from the IJF World Judo Tour, has made a significant comeback in the qualification process that started in July 2022.

Team manager Ezio Gamba has selected Danil Lavrentev for the up to 73kg category, favoring him over Makhmadbek Makhmadbekov due to Lavrentev's impressive performances in 2024. Murad Chopanov will compete in the up to 66kg category after his Grand Slam victory in Kazakhstan this year. In the up to 60kg category, former world champion Yago Abuladze was surpassed by Chopanov.

Inal Tasoev, the 2023 world champion, was chosen over Olympic bronze medalist Tamerlan Bashaev, reflecting his recent superior performance. Timur Arbuzov, who claimed a silver medal at the World Championships in Abu Dhabi, will compete in the up to 81kg category. The up to 100kg spot went to Matvey Kanikovskiy, preferred over 2023 world champion Arman Adamian, who has been struggling to regain his top form.

For the lighter weights, Ramazan Abdulaev was an expected pick, with Ayub Bliev remaining a strong alternate. Mikhail Igolnikov secured his place in the up to 90kg category, known for peaking during the Olympics despite inconsistent form.

On the women's side, Daria Kurbanmamadova in the up to 57kg and Madina Taimazova in the up to 70kg categories were relatively assured of their places with consistent performances. Sabina Giliazova was the clear choice for the up to 48kg category from the beginning. Elis Starteva stood out in the heavyweight division, consistently finishing in the top three, while Dali Liluashvili's recent silver medals at Grand Slams secured her a spot in the up to 63kg category.

Reflecting on the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, the Russian team, competing then also as neutrals, secured three bronze medals. With a stronger team this year, particularly in the up to 100kg and heavyweight categories for men and continued strong prospects for Taimazova among the women, the team is well-positioned for potential success in Paris. However, they will not participate in the team event.

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