A good problem in judo is when you have too many top players in the same category. Japan often has this problem, especially in their lightweight divisions where there are as many as three or four top players vying for the No. 1 spot.
Belgium doesn’t quite yet have that problem in its U81kg division, but it has two Top 10 fighters and one up-and-coming newcomer who looks like he will soon make waves in that division.
It’s top fighter at U81kg is the 25-year-old Matthias Casse, who is a World Champion, European Champion and Olympic bronze medalist. He is also ranked No. 1 in the world right now. There is no denying he is top dog in this category.
However, at No. 6 in the world rankings is Sami Chouchi, who is nipping at Casse’s heels. He has proven himself to be extremely capable, and has beaten former World Champion Sagi Muki of Israel twice this year, including in Tel Aviv where Muki had home ground advantage. Chouchi’s main disadvantage is his age. He is 29.
At a distant No. 60 of the world ranking is little-known Abdul Malik Umayev. Few would recognize this 21-year-old right now but we expect that soon enough he will be a known quantity. Umayev has just broken into the Seniors but he performed very well in the recent Antalya Grand Slam where he displayed great throwing skills and won himself a bronze medal.
See Umayev win the bronze in Antalya with drop morote-seoi-nage below.
We expect that in no time at all, he will be creeping up to Chouchi and Casse. This will only be good for Belgium judo. With three very capable athletes in the U81kg division, they will be able to spur each other on to be the best they can be.
There are many young athletes with Chechen background in Belgium, some even reached the level of the juniors national team and competed at the Junior European Championships last year.
Athletes with Chechen’s background U81kg
Abdul-Malik Umayev (BEL)
Turpal Tepkaev (RUS)
Abas Azizov (RUS)
Shamil Borchashvili (AUT)