In 1991 there was a major shift in the world of judo. The former soviet union collapsed and became 15 countries instead of one. This meant that on the world stage you now potentially had 15 former soviet countries rather than one per weight group. It should be noted that these soviet or URS countries were not all the Eastern European countries, it did not include Romania, Hungary, Poland or Bulgaria for example. It did, however, include some now major judo nations, including: Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. We should also remember that there was an influx of Chechen wrestlers/judo players to Turkey and Georgian wrestlers/judo players to Greece.
In the 1992 Olympic games only three of the former Soviet countries competed under their own flag (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) the remainder competed under a unified team. The second big change in the 1992 Olympic games was the inclusion of women’s judo. Some countries have hugely benefited from the inclusion of women’s judo, particularly Great Britain, Japan, Cuba and France but the former soviet countries have had little influence in women’s judo. Sure you have Eastern Europeans, Romanians, Hungarians and Polish but not many former Soviet countries. The world Championships has seen a rise in Eastern Europeans from Romania, Poland and Hungary, Romaina in particular is winning multiple medals on the world stage.
We could argue however the changes are coming, the video below shows Arutiunyanfrom Armenia throwing with a huge Te-Guruma in the 2010 world championships in the u48kg weight group. In fact the 2010 world championships saw Romania, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Russia (x 2) and Slovenia win a bronze, Hungary won a silver and there were 5 & 7th places for Hungary, Ukraine, Mongolia (x3), Russia and Poland. I would happily predict Mongolia and Romania as serious medal contenders for London 2012!
So, where can this assumption of a rise in Eastern European women’s judo lead us? If we look at mens judo – 31 men from former soviet union countries have won Olympic medals since 1992 Olympics and only two women from former soviet union countries (both Russia). You add the sudden increase of former Soviet union countries and the existing Eastern European countries rise in medals to the Olympic stage and this could spell trouble for the current countries who do well in women’s judo such as Cuba, France and Japan.
The question is this, how well prepared are the worlds elite women for this shift? Countries like Mongolia and Armenia are sending women judo players who have a style most women judoka are not used too!