An interesting category U78kg at the 2018 World Championships in Baku. Since Kayla Harrison won Olympic gold this division gained in interest and strength. Even since Kayla has left, this division kept growing with a new generation women, tall, slim and more technical. Still we think that the physical and experienced judoka will prevail on Tuesday.
Guusje Steenhuis is the world number one and despite her injury perhaps the most consistent in the whole field. Can she shine at world level. She finished ninth three times, that is not her level, so we can expect her this time. She has a good draw to reach the last four. Kaliema Antomarchi will face Jemima Yeats-Brown we estimate them both equal but not mature enough for Steenhuis. We estimate she should win this pool.
Madeleine Malonga also has a tough opponent in, most likely, Anna-Maria Wagner of Germany, typical judoka for the new generation. Wagner is the European U23 Champion. Normally the French should proceed, but showed recently in Zagreb, she stepped up to the next level. This event can be the next gear. However the biggest favourite is Brazilian World Champion Mayra Aguiar. Although she is a bit vulnerable, still our choice to win this pool.
Natalie Powell has the ability to medal but it happens on the other side of this pool and Apotekar is an outsider. We estimate the semi finalist will come out of the duo: Shori Hamada, an expert in ground work. The ude-garami that we have seen before this week is one of her trade-mark techniques. Obviously we know, they know Bernadette Graf knows and it’s the question if Graf can handle the Japanese technician. Graf feels well, is still one of the lightest in the pool but gained necessary weight in the past few months and warmed up successfully in Bratislava. Still we think Hamada is a one nut to crack.
Audrey Tcheumeo is one the strongest, most successful and most experienced athletes of the pack. The French has the right circumstances to reach the semi final. A super contest is Marhinde Verkerk vs Luise Malzahn. Speaking about experience, Verkerk was 2009 World Champion and still Holland’s most successful U78kg athlete at top level. Same for Malzahn in Germany, but both are not anymore in the driver seat. This championships can bring them back in the race, and they are used to pressure. It makes ‘m better. Junior European Patricia Sampaio is an outsider, normally not physical enough to beat these top women, but surprise us again Patricia.
We think the following names will appear on the results sheets. And don’t pin me on this: Steenhuis, Antomarchi, Malonga, Aguiar, Apotekar, Hamada, Tcheumeo, Verkerk are my best guess. Aguiar, Steenhuis, Hamada and Tcheumeo in the semis.