Changes In Judo ...A report on the IJF Extraordinary Congress
Dr. Ron Tripp, General Secretary USA Judo
This report is meant to update USA Judo's membership on the activities and decisions that took place during the recently completed International Judo Federation Extraordinary Congress which took place in Bangkok, Thailand.
I had the honor and privilege to travel to Bangkok together with our CEO, Jose H Rodriguez in order to attend this important gathering of 159 national judo federations. The meeting, just as we had thought it would, brought some important changes to the sport which we hope will help spark a new interest in judo in sponsorship, television and participation worldwide.
During this Extraordinary Congress, the main and most impacting vote that took place was that of changing the IJF Statute. The changes made in the Statute of the IJF are as sweeping and impacting as the changes made to the USA Judo Bylaws a couple of years ago. In making these changes the members of this world organization (IJF) gave the leadership of Mr. Marius L. Vizer and various commissions a vote of confidence to bring about the necessary changes to the sport of judo throughout the world.
Those of you interested in reading the actual new Bylaws enacted in Bangkok by an overwhelming majority can find them at www.ijf.org and within a few days you will also find it linked on our website (www.usjudo.org).
However, I do want to bring to your attention to the most important outcome of this vote which will impact many of you reading this report:
1. Rule Changes - The IJF has announced technical rules changes to the sport which will go into effect January 1, 2009. Most of these changes were tested and implemented at the recently held World Junior Championships with a great deal of satisfaction from athletes, coaches and referees. The purpose of these rule changes is to improve the sport as well as improving the enjoyment of the sport by the spectators. Some countries have already begun using these rule changes while others are waiting for the start of the New Year. Here in the United States we have encouraged our Referee Commission to begin to work in earnest to train all of our referees to these rule changes as well as work with our coaches so that all athletes become accustomed to these new rules as quickly as possible. USA Judo, under the direction of our Referees Commission, will publish these changes by this weekend. November 22-23, 2008. Between now and January 1, some of the referees may work with local tournament to begin to "test runs" of these rules. If this is to happen, USA Judo National Office should be notified so that proper notations are made to the tournament sanction for liability purposes.
2. Olympic Qualification - Another major change that came about due to the Extraordinary Congress held in Bangkok is the complete restructure of the Olympic Qualification system. Within the next week USA Judo will publish the details of this new qualification system. It is important, however, to note that this new qualification system will come into full effect as of January 1, 2009. Some of the key components of this new system are:
a. The majority of athletes who will qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games will do so based on world rankings.
b. These world rankings will be based on cumulative points that will be earned at Grand Masters, World Championships, Grand Slams, Grand Prix, World Cups, and Continental Championships; Masters and World Championships will be awarded highest points with diminishing value of points for Grand Slams, Grand Prix and so on; Athletes who competed in the 2008 Olympic Games start with a number of points depending on the number of matches they won at these Games; points will be able to be carried year to year with percentage of diminishing value each year.
c. The Grand Masters, World Championships, Grand Slams and Grand Prix events each will have prize purses of $100,000.00- $200,000.00 USD to be shared among 1-3 places in each event.
d. Qualification will be by athlete name and no longer by nation.
e. There will still be a qualification via Continental Championships (read: Pan American Championships) but still will be by name and not by country.
f. The above mentioned qualifying events will be held throughout the world with the majority being held in Europe and Asia. North and South America, Africa and Oceania will be hosting a few. (This calendar can be found at http://www.judo.teamusa.org/content/index/842).
During our visit in Bangkok we also had the opportunity to meet privately with President Vizer who made a point of congratulating United States not only on winning the first Olympic medal for a U.S. woman since women's judo was introduced as a full medal sport at the 1992 Games, but also on the notable improvement of our athletes at the international competition level. President Vizer is committed to supporting USA Judo in furthering the development and growth of the sport in the United States. Mr. Vizer encouraged the hosting of a Grand Prix as well as potentially placing an international training site in our country as two of several idea discussed during this meeting.
While in Bangkok, we had the opportunity to attend the World Junior Championships. It was with a great deal of pride that we watched our USA athletes compete. It was obvious to all those watching that just as Mr. Marius Vizer commented on the improvement of our senior athletes, our junior athletes also have improved in style and technique. Congratulations are in order to our athletes and staff, but most obviously to our Junior World Champion, Kayla Harrison, who dominated her weight division from the moment she stepped on the mat.
Concluding this report, it must be noted that the international judo world is no longer the same as it was when judo was first admitted to the Olympic Games in 1964. The IJF now has more than 200members - many with very strong judo programs; some with fast developing programs; and others with very embryonic programs. We in the United States will have to quickly adjust to the changes in both the technical rules as well as the Olympic qualifying system. It is to that extent that our emphasis and our focus will have to change as we enter this New Year and new Olympic quadrennium.
What will this mean to us in the United States?
It may mean smaller Olympic teams, but it may also guarantee us a better chance to medal...
It may mean that we may have to encourage more of our athletes to spend more time in Europe and Asia, but that should not be anything that you have not heard before...
It may also mean that we may have to become more selective in who do we financially support and what programs do we invest in...
I hope that this report provides you, the members, with a better idea of the changes that will be taking place. I know that you may have heard many different versions and that this may have created some concerns and rightly so. Please know that USA Judo will be publishing in its entirety all of the changes as they become finalized and given to us by the International Judo Federation.
If you have any questions during these times of changes please do not hesitate to call our National Office and they will always be ready to provide you the best answer they can base on factual information we have on file.
These are new and exciting times of change and we hope to keep you informed so as to help you adapt to these changes.
Dr. Ron Tripp
USA Judo General Secretary