After what has been a fantastic year of judo action with players all competing for valuable Olympic qualification points and with the World Championships returning to judo’s rightful home in Japan, the year will now draw to a close in the traditional manner with the World Judo Masters in Qingdao, China.
With only the top 36 players in each weight category invited to compete, the Masters really is a who’s who of World judo.
British Judo is sending its largest ever team to a Masters event with 10 judoka achieving the invitation criteria.
Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) was recently crowned British Judo’s male athlete of the year for 2019 after a number of impressive performances at Grand Prix level. Narrowly missing out on medals at the Tel Aviv, Marrakesh and Montreal Grand Prix’s finishing 5th, McKenzie claimed bronze at the Antalya Grand Prix and silver at the Zagreb Grand Prix in addition to gaining selection to the European Games and World Championships.
McKenzie has been drawn in Pool D against David Pulkrabek (CZE) in the opening round, a player he recently defeated on his way to winning silver at the Perth Oceania Open.
Chelsie Giles (-52kg) has had a phenomenal second half to 2019, after winning a bronze medal at the European Games in Minsk, she claimed another bronze at the Zagreb Grand Prix. At the World Championships she finished in 7th place and recently won bronze at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
Giles, drawn in Pool A, will face local judoka Liping Liu (CHN) in the opening round. Should Giles progress to the 2nd round she would face current world number 1 Amandine Buchard (FRA), a player she was narrowly defeated by in the quarter-final at the European Games earlier this year.
The women’s -63kg is arguably the strongest category in British judo at this moment in time with four athletes all ranked inside the world’s top 36 players.
All six British Judoka competing on Friday in the -63kg and -70kg categories have opening round byes and will enter the competition in the 2nd round.
Amy Livesey (-63kg), who is competing in her first Masters, picked up a bronze medal at the Antalya Grand Prix before winning silver at the Montreal Grand Prix. She backed this up with two 7th place finishes at the Budapest and Tashkent Grand Prix’s before taking bronze at the Brasilia Grand Slam.
Lucy Renshall (-63kg) started the year with two 7th placed finishes at the Tel Aviv Grand Prix and Paris Grand Slam, before going on to win silver medals at the Prague European Open and Ekaterinburg Grand Slam. She has followed this up with selection to both the European Games and her first World Championships as well as a 5th place finish at the Tbilisi Grand Prix and most recently a bronze medal at the Tashkent Grand Prix.
Renshall has been drawn in Pool B and will face Katharina Haecker (AUS) in the 2nd round. The pair last met back in 2016 at the Budapest Grand Prix where Haecker was victorious.
Lulu Piovesana (-63kg) is making her Masters debut following a fantastic start to the year, picking up where she left off in 2018 when she was crowned European U23 Champion. She started the year with a silver medal at the Sofia European Open before a 5th placed finish at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam and bronze at the Marrakesh Grand Prix. Piovesana recently topped the podium winning gold at the Tallinn European Open.
Piovesana, drawn in Pool C, will face the Pan-American Championship silver medallist and current world number 7 Maylin Del Toro Carvajal (CUB) in the 2nd round.
Alice Schlesinger (-63kg) claimed a bronze medal at the Antalya Grand Prix before winning silver at the European Games in Minsk. She recently won bronze at the Perth Oceania Open.
Schlesinger will face the current Olympic Champion and former World Champion Tina Trstenjak (SLO) in the 2nd round match in Pool D. The pair last met in 2018 at the European Championships where Trstenjak took the victory.
After injury ended her 2018 season early, Gemma Howell (-70kg) made a winning return to play at the Prague European Open in March. She backed this up with bronze at the Baku Grand Slam and a 7th place finish at the Hohhot Grand Prix. Two back to back gold medals at the Budapest and Zagreb Grand Prix’s and a bronze medal at the Brasilia Grand Slam mean that Howell has had one of her best years to date.
Howell had been drawn in Pool B and will face world number 4 Maria Portela (BRA). Portela is a former Masters Champion, claiming the title back in 2017. Howell last faced Portela at the Budapest Grand Prix earlier this year and defeated the Brazilian in the semi-final before progressing to win gold.
Sally Conway (-70kg) has had another fantastic year which recently saw her named British Judo’s female player of the year for 2019. The year started in style with Conway winning gold at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam followed by a 7th place finish at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam. The highlight of Conway’s year came in August when she won bronze at the World Championships in Tokyo, meaning she joins an elite group of athletes to win medals at Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth level. In her most recent competition Conway finished just outside the medals in 5th at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Conway will be looking to add a Masters medal to her impressive CV after a 5th placed finish in 2016.
Conway will face Kim Polling (NED) in her 2nd round match in Pool D. The pair have met on five previous occasions with the Dutch player currently leading the battle with three victories to Conway’s two. The pair last met in the final of the European Championships in 2018 where Conway had to settle for silver as Polling was crowned Champion for the fourth time in her career.
The 2018 Masters bronze medallist Natalie Powell (-78kg) has had a consistent year after placing in all but two of her competitions. The year started with a 5th place finish at the Tel Aviv Grand Prix and 7th at the Paris Grand Slam. This was followed by two further 5th place finishes at the Dusseldorf and Ekaterinburg Grand Slam’s. Following a 7th place finish at the European Games Powell won bronze at the Budapest Grand Prix. A 7th place finish at the World Championships in Tokyo followed before a bronze and silver medal at the Tashkent Grand Prix and Brasilia Grand Slam respectively. Powell’s most recent performance saw her finish in 7th place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
Powell has been drawn in Pool D and will face Marhinde Verkerk (NED) in the opening round. Verkerk is a former World Champion and was Masters Champion back in 2017. The pair know each other well having met on eight previous occasions, the last two times being in 2017 when Powell defeated Verkerk in the final of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the bronze medal match at the World Championships.
Sarah Adlington (+78kg) had a 5th and 7th place finish at the Marrakesh Grand Prix and Ekaterinburg Grand Slam before a 7th place finish at the European Games. Adlington heads to China having last competed in September where she won bronze at the Tashkent Grand Prix.
Adlington has an opening round bye and will face the 2019 World Junior Championship silver medallist Hayun Kim in the 2nd round.
Preliminary rounds are due to start at 02:00am on Thursday and 02:30am on Friday and Saturday with Final Block scheduled to start at 09:00am GMT.
British Judo will bring you a recap of how all your British Judoka perform in the Preliminary rounds each morning on the British Judo social media channels and you can watch live action from Final Bock from 09:00am on the British Judo homepage.