Ukraine’s Paralympic and world champion Inna Cherniak is feeling positive about her change from the women’s -57kg to the -52kg ahead of her season debut at the IBSA Judo World Cup in Antalya, Turkey.
Cherniak has been dominant in the higher weight category in recent years, picking up the Paralympic title at Rio 2016. She beat Brazil’s London 2012 silver medallist Lucia Araujo by Ippon.
But in late 2017 Cherniak and her coached decided to try something different. At the World Cup in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in October, Cherniak took on a new field of rivals with great success.
“In Rio 2016 I competed in -57kg and was the champion. Now me and my coach decided to change my category for -52kg and I feel good,” Cherniak said, also looking ahead to the 2018 IBSA Blind Judo World Championships in Lisbon, Portugal.
“That will be first major competition after Paralympic Games in Rio. Some other athletes are changing weight category too. We see that rivalry in international judo is growing. Will be interesting.”
Cherniak is right. Other athletes have also changed categories, including Araujo who has switched up to -63kg. Whilst that rivalry may now be off the table, Cherniak is still excited by what is to come although reluctant to pick any one in particular who could challenge her.
“This is judo, and to predict what will be in one or another second is almost impossible.
There are many girls who aspire to win as well as me and I think that everyone deserves to win. At competitions it is necessary to be ready and concentrated from the first to the last second.
“You must be concentrated all the time, every second. Sometimes it only takes one wrong step and your opponent is dropping you on your back.”
The -52kg is a tough field and in Antalya, Cherniak could face Germany’s London 2012 Paralympic champion and Rio silver medallist Ramona Brussig. Azerbaijan’s European title holder Sevda Valiyeva will also compete.
Cherniak took on Brussig in Tashkent leaving the Tatami with the win and showing an impressive ability to adapt.
As the two year anniversary of Rio 2016 approaches, Cherniak cherishes her memories of those successful days but her mind is now fully focused on the challenges ahead.
“It’s sweet past for me,” she said. “Today we are going to the future.”
The 2018 IBSA Judo World Cup runs from 22-23 April, with the weigh-in and draws on 21 April.
The 2018 IBSA Judo World Championships will take place in Lisbon from 16-18 November.