Without question the overwhelming favorite in the U52kg category is reigning Olympic Champion Uta Abe (JPN). Technically, her last defeat was in the Tokyo Olympics where she lost to Theresa Stoll (GER) in the mixed team event. But it’s worth mentioning that Stoll is a U57kg player. At U52kg, Abe’s last defeat was against Amandine Buchard (FRA) in 2019. But since then, she has beaten Buchard twice, including in the final of the Tokyo Olympics.
Buchard is Abe’s strongest rival. She has a powerful side takedown and she is capable on the ground. One of her favorite ground techniques, a legal version of the Gerbi Choke, was recently banned by the IJF. So, she will have to make further modifications to it if she still wants to use it. Buchard also has an osaekomi turnover which she learned during her training stint in Spain. She recently suffered a shock defeat to Britain’s Chelsie Giles at the 2022 European Championships.
Distria Krasniqi (KOS) is a top contender for sure. And like Abe, she is an Olympic Champion, albeit in the U48kg division. But she is most comfortable in the U52kg division, which she moved up to after her teammate Majlinda Kelmendi retired from competition. Krasniqi is still acclimatizing to her new weight class and recently lost to Abe in Zagreb Grand Prix. She also lost to Buchard at this year’s Europeans and Paris Grand Slam.
The U52kg is full of strong fighters and dark horses could come in the form of rising stars Giles (GBR), Reka Pupp (HUN) and Diyora Keldiyorova (UZB). The very experienced Odette Giuffrida (ITA) cannot be discounted.
In the final analysis, we think Abe will come up tops.
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