Paralympic and World Medalists to Battle for Paris Qualification Points at IBSA World Games

by Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, CO) – Seven members of Team USA will compete at the IBSA World Games beginning on Wednesday in Birmingham, Great Britain.

One of the largest qualifying tournaments for the 2024 Paralympic Games, 235 athletes from 42 nations will compete across two days of individual judo competition. The World Games serves as World Championship tournament for 10 sports, including judo, goalball and soccer.

Competition schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, Aug. 23
Men’s 60 kg (J1, J2)
Men’s 73 kg (J1, J2)

Women’s 48 kg (J1, J2)
Women’s 57 kg (J2)

Thursday, Aug. 24
Men’s 90 kg (J1, J2)
Men’s +90 kg (J1, J2)
Women’s 57 kg (J1)
Women’s 70 kg (J1, J2)
Women’s +70 kg (J1, J2)

Team USA’s lineup includes four men and three women and is highlighted by six Paralympians aiming for a return to the Games in Paris.

Tokyo Paralympian Liana Mutia (Philadelphia, PA / El Idrissi Judo Academy) enters the J1 57 kg category as a reigning World bronze medalist with a No. 5 world ranking after a gold medal win at the 2022 IBSA Pan Ams and a bronze medal at the 2023 IBSA Alamada Grand Prix. Mutia drew World No. 7 Vanessa Wagner (GER), a bronze medalist at the 2022 IBSA European Championships, in the round of 16 and could face a quarter-final matchup against Yijie Shi (CHN) who has only competed once on the IBSA circuit, but won gold in her debut at the IBSA Grand Prix in Alexandria, Egypt earlier this year. The field also includes 2022 IBSA World Champion Dondu Yesilyurt (TUR), silver medalist Priscilla Gagne (CAN) and bronze medalist Anzhela Havrysiuk (UKR).

A bronze medalist at the Rio Paralympic Games, 43-year-old Christella Garcia (Sacramento, CA / Team Sacramento Judo) is aiming to qualify for her third Paralympic Team. Competing in the J1 +70 kg event, Garcia is ranked No. 6 in the world after a gold medal finish at the Alamada Grand Prix and bronze in Alexandria. Garcia will need a win over 2023 IBSA European Championships bronze medalist Khatira Ismiyeva (AZE) in the quarter-finals to put herself in contention for her first IBSA World medal. Three of the four medalists from the 2022 IBSA Worlds will be going for gold in Birmingham, including Garcia’s potential semifinal matchup – Anastasiia Harnyk (UKR) who has been undefeated in international competition during the last two years and is both the reigning World Champion and World No. 1.

Tokyo Paralympic silver medalist Ben Goodrich (St. Paul, MN) is seeking his first IBSA World Championships medal in the J2 90 kg category and enters the event ranked No. 7 in the world after podium finishes at the 2022 IBSA Pan Ams and Sao Paulo Grand Prix. After a bye into the round of 16, Goodrich’s first opponent will be World No. 4 Evan Molloy (GBR). Goodrich is one of four Paralympic medalists in the division. Helios Latchoumanaya (FRA) won bronze at 90 kg in Tokyo and is ranked No. 1 in the world without a single loss in the last two years. Oleksandr Nazarenko (UKR) also won bronze in Tokyo and took bronze again at the 2022 IBSA Worlds. Like Goodrich, Sharif Khalilov (UZB) moved down from 100 kg to 90 kg when the weight categories were restructured in 2022. Khalilov won bronze at the heavier weight in Tokyo and is seeking to make an impact in the faster 90 kg.    

Katie Davis (Sacramento, CA / Team Sacramento Judo) competed at both the 2012 and 2020 Paralympic Games at +70 kg. Fighting in the J2 +70 category this week, Davis is ranked No. 8 in the world and will face her Pan Am rival, Tokyo Paralympic bronze medalist Meg Emmerich (BRA) in the round of 16. Three of the four Tokyo Paralympic medalists will be in action at a stacked +70 kg event, including Emmerich as well as gold medalist Dursadaf Karimova (AZE) and bronze medalist Carolina Costa (ITA). Ranked No. 2, Costa has maintained a rivalry with World No. 1 Rebeca Silva (BRA) who finished second behind Costa at two Grand Prix tournaments this year, but holds gold medals at three Grand Prix events in 2022.

Forty-six-year-old Andre Watson (Alda, PA / El Idrissi Judo Academy) made his Paralympic debut at the 2008 Games and returned to competition last year, finishing ninth in the J1 90 kg category. A silver medalist at the 2022 IBSA Pan Ams, Watson is ranked No. 15 in the world with just three tournaments under his belt. Watson will open the tournament wit a round of 16 match against Oleg Cretul (MDA) who is coming off a gold medal win at the IBSA European Championships earlier this month. One of the top athletes in the field is expected to be Arthur Cavalcante Da Silva (BRA) – the World No. 1 who has lost just one international match since the Tokyo Games. That loss, however, came to rising star Daniel Powell (GBR) who is the reigning World Champion and No. 2 in the world.

Ron Hawthorne (Kansas City, KS / Waka Mu Sha / Black Ice Judo) made his Paralympic debut in 2012, but has narrowly missed returning to the Games in both 2016 and 2021. This tournament will mark his first international championship in the new quad as Hawthorne comes in ranked No. 29 in the world in the J2 60 kg category. All four of the 2022 IBSA World medalists will be competing in Birmingham with gold medalist Davyd Khorava (UKR) entering as the No. 2 and silver medalist Thiego Da Silva (BRA) holding the top seed. Bronze medalist Luis Daniel Gavilan Lorenzo (ESP) and Zurab Zurabiani (GEO) are ranked No. 3 and 6, respectively. Also watch out for Anuar Sariyev (KAZ) – the Tokyo Paralympic silver medalist who won gold in Alamada earlier this year.

A 2015 Parapan American Games Team member, Robert Anderson (Bolingbrook, IL / Menomonee Judo Club) is competing at his first international event since earning bronze at the 2020 IBSA Pan Ams. Anderson will be competing in the J2 +90 kg event where he will open with a round of 16 match against Talgat Azhgaliyev (KAZ) – a bronze medalist at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix. The World No. 1 is Chris Skelley (GBR) – a 2020 Paralympic Champion who won gold at 100 kg and is fighting up to +90 kg. One of Skelley’s top opponents is expected to be 2022 IBSA World Champion Vahid Nouri (IRI) who comes into the tournament ranked fourth, but has won gold at both of his two events in the last year, including the 2022 IBSA World title.