The first round of consultation for a new classification system for IBSA Judo – which has seen more than 120 athletes, coaches, officials and classifiers take part in online discussions – concluded on Friday (12 February) with a session dedicated to judoka.
In September 2020, the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) published the final outcomes and recommendations of a four-year research project into classification in judo. The research highlighted that two separate classes were required – one for blind athletes and one for those who are partially sighted.
As part of the introduction of the new system, IBSA launched its biggest ever community consultation. A total of seven online sessions have been carried out for athletes, coaches, classifiers, officials and IBSA members. Participants heard from Kai Krabben and Dr. David Mann of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam about their findings. They also had the chance to ask questions and make comments about the research and recommendations.
IBSA Vice-President Robert Fenton, who is chairing the group responsible for introducing the changes and creating new classification rules, also gave an introduction.
“The final session for athletes represents the last step of only the first phase of this important project,” Fenton said. “We were delighted to be able to end it with the input of current judoka who shared some excellent insights into the current system and how the new one can be made the absolute best. It is important that we continue to involve judoka in this process, and we will be doing that via the athlete representative on the implementation committee and more sessions like the one just held.
“Our next step is to take all of the feedback we have received so far, review it and then work with the research team on finalising their recommendations. After that we will move onto drafting the new classification rules ahead of the second round of consultation.
“Thank you to everyone who has been involved so far. Keep sending us your comments!”
The creation of a new system is in response to the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) 2015 Athlete Classification Code. This details how classification must be evidence-based and sport-specific in order to stay on the Paralympic programme. Like other Para sports the current system in IBSA Judo was developed in response to a variety of factors over time as it grew into a global sport.
A research project for IBSA Judo therefore began in 2016. Scientists from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam attended competitions, carried out a variety of tests, analysed large amounts of data and spoke to hundreds of experienced coaches, athletes, classifiers and officials. The university is also the IPC’s Classification Research Centre for visual impairments.
Following on from the publication of their first findings in 2019, the scientists published a series of final recommendations in the spring of 2020. IBSA is reviewing these in consultation with coaches, athletes, classifiers and officials and aims to introduce new classification rules in time for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, but not before Tokyo 2020.
The recommendations centre around the creation of two classes – one for athletes who are partially sighted and one for athletes who are blind. Currently in IBSA Judo athletes with different levels of impairment - B1, B2 and B3 –compete against each other. The minimum impairment criteria will also be raised according to the research outcomes.
An implementation committee, formed of athletes, coaches, classifiers and officials from around the world, are in charge of taking this work forward.
A consultation document which summarises and contains the full research outcomes is available to download here.