As a new year gets underway, judoka with visual impairments around the world are preparing for the start of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo season.
Just three competitions remain for athletes to secure crucial world ranking points which go toward qualification for August’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Everyone knows that the upcoming edition of the Paralympics offers fighters a once in a generation chance to compete in the birthplace of judo – Japan.
The last 12 months were highlighted by regional Championships that delivered some new faces, all keen to take the amazing opportunity.
But it also saw the return to the top of Paralympic champions and medallists, coming back from injury or time away from the sport.
Here is a look ahead at what 2020 has in store:
2020 IBSA Judo American Championships, Montreal, Canada
The first major event of the season takes place just two weeks in to the new year. On 12 January, top quality athletes from across the Americas will travel to Canada to try and claim regional titles.
The competition follows the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, which delivered medals for countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.
Mexico’s Eduardo Avila Sanchez, the men’s up to 81kg Paralympic champion, returned to the top of the podium in 2019 after being out with a serious back injury.
Fans can also expect the rivalry between Mexican Paralympic title-holder Lenia Ruvalcaba and Brazil’s world champion Alana Martins to heat-up in the women’s up to 70kg.
Canada’s Priscilla Gagne will represent the hosts in the women’s up to 52kg as the defending gold medallist. Gagne enjoyed a successful 2019, taking home silver medals from Lima, a Grand Prix and an international qualifier.
Montreal 2020 will be shown live on IBSA Judo’s Facebook
page and IBSA’s YouTube channel
IBSA Judo Grand Prix, Nottingham, Great Britain, 11-12 April
As the penultimate chance to gain world ranking points, the Grand Prix in Nottingham is expected to attract some big names.
This includes the stars of the British squad who are likely to take to the tatami at home. Chris Skelley and Elliot Stewart are both World and European Championships bronze medallists.
IBSA Judo Grand Prix, Baku, Azerbaijan, 11-12 May
The Baku Grand Prix, held in partnership with the International Judo Federation, is fast becoming one of the highlights of the annual circuit.
With the same top quality venues and organisation as previous years, 2020 will be no different.
In 2019 the hosts left with three gold medals. Vugar Shirinli claimed the win in the men’s up to 60kg whilst Shahana Hajiyeva and Sevda Valiyeva were the victors in the women’s up to 48kg and 57kg respectively. A further eight silver and bronze medals completed the Azeri haul, adding to the team’s formidable reputation as the Paralympics edges closer.