One of the latest ill-conceived changes to Judo competition was a tweaking of the repechage system. In the past, everyone who lost to the winners of the four pools was pulled back into competition, and given a second chance at medaling. Now, only the eight quarter-finalists have a chance at medaling.
Jan Snijders, a Dutchman who is the EJU Refereeing Director, issued this statement at the conclusion of the Rotterdam World Championships that ended a few days ago:
We are very satisfied with the new system. Nobody wants to see the losers. Championships are all about the medal winners, and are not training competitions.
Snijders’ statement is appalling considering his own strong competitive accomplishments in the 60s and 70s. I would expect this type of disdain from a referee who had not competed or had not competed at a high level, but coming from a former competitor shows how out of touch the IJF and EJU Refereeing Commissions are with the rest of the Judo community.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us like to see good Judo performed even by players who wind up losing matches. Muneta from Japan is one player who can excite spectators with his upright, classical Judo, win or lose. Some of the best matches may in fact occur in the first or second rounds, pitting current or former World and Olympic medalists. It’s disappointing to know that we don’t get to see those players later on in the repechage because someone has arbitrarily decided that “nobody wants to see losers.” Logically, if it’s true that “nobody wants to see losers,” why do the losing quarter-finalists get to fight again? I know, nobody has ever accused the refereeing commission of being logical. Reactive is a more appropriate description.
It’s also fairly safe to say that the ugly, penalty-driven Judo that was performed at the Rotterdam World Championships is not likely to gain us many non-Judo fans. Frankly, after being in this sport for over 45 years, I too am becoming more and more disgusted by what pretends to be Judo. I’d prefer to see great Judo performed by losers than to have to sit through ugly medal matches watching players flop and drop, or exchange shidos while pretending they are doing Judo. We’ve all breathed a sigh of relief at the conclusion of such matches.
When Snijders said that “we are very satisfied” he clearly must have been talking about the refereeing commissions because no intelligent athlete or coach after years of dedication to training and lifestyle sacrifices could possibly be satisfied with having fewer chances to medal, especially in the presence of incompetent referees and ever-changing rules, often implemented weeks or months before a major event. I pity the players going to the Junior Worlds in Paris!
The only thing that Snijders got right was that the World Championships is not a training competition. I’m pretty sure we already knew that.
If you agree with me that Snijders was out of line and out of touch, and that the new repechage system needs to be abandoned as quickly as possible, I would encourage you to email him and voice your opinion. In order to reclaim our sport from the refereeing commissions- national, continental or international- we must let their members know how we feel. Mr. Snijders can be reached at email@example.com Mr. Juan Carlos Barcos, the IJF Refereeing Director can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org