Nobody Wants to See the Losers?

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 Mr. Juan Carlos Barcos, the IJF Refereeing Director can be reached at

5 thoughts on “Nobody Wants to See the Losers?

  1. i very much agree with you regarding the abolishment of the new repercharge system. A good example is the recent world championships in -60kg. All medal winners in beijing olympics performed as follows
    Choi (olympic champion) lost first round, houkes (current world champ) lost second round and paisher lost first round as well. and Sobirov lost 2 or 3rd round.
    Under the new system the only person who would not have got a second fight was Houkesfrom Netherlands, the other 3 easily have the talent to fight through the repercharge and go for a medal but under the new system this is never going to happen.
    this will lead to players being less risky in their attacks in fear of being countered ad eliminated.
    we will see what happens

  2. I just got back from an international tournament in Italy. We had 55 people in the -73kg division. I won my first match quickly by ippon, and lost to French opponent by a pin in my second match. He went into the quarterfinal, but I was not carried through because he wasn’t in the semi-final. I mean! I came all the way for two matches? Doesn’t the normal double-repechage allow me another match if the person whom beat me went into the quarterfinal? A true double-repechage would allow me to fight again regardless to whom I lost.

    Also, few weeks ago I was at another tournament, I lost to an opponent from Slovakia, and he won the bronze medal, but yet I wasn’t carried through to play again. I think smaller tournaments like these should work on true double-repechage.

    On a different note, have you heard about Nomura’s comeback? He lost his first match at the Baku World Cup to an Azeri. Yet, he doesn’t get another chance to fight even though his opponent ultimately won the silver medal. Of course, this is even worse as it is single-elimination. Nomura is a triple Olympic champion.

    I think the new elimination rule is bad for judo’s participation by a wide range of athletes. It’s still acceptable if they keep it at the super world cup level, but if this rule is enforced on lower international, national, regional, or local tournaments, I think many people won’t even bother to show up. Why waste the trip and money on a sport where you get only one match? Even World Cups shouldn’t have such rule since there are not usually more than 30 players per division.

  3. Your last paragraph supports my main concern that players will tune out of Judo tournaments because it’s not worth the time, effort and money to fight one match. I’ll go so far as to say that considering the volatility of Judo rules and the devaluation of Ippon that this new repechage system should not be used anywhere, not in World Cup events, not at the Worlds, and certainly not at the Olympics.

    By the way, I just heard that the 2009 Rendez-Vous Montreal was the last one held. It became a victim of poor attendance. Did the rule changes have anything to do with this??? Is the U.S.Open next????

  4. Hi Gerald, just read your message six year later! Wow!

    Everytime I see a Judo competition I see how pointless was this result… do you think there’s any chance of the repechage coming back to what is was? Thanks!

  5. Hard to tell which way the wind will blow with the IJF. I do know that the IJF is trying to make Judo an elite sport like tennis, which at the highest level is a single elimination sport. Considering the lack of real seeding, and the shortness of Judo matches where the slightest mistake can cost you the match, we will continue to suffer the consequences of one Olympic champion eliminating a former Olympic champ in the first or second round. How this benefits the sport and spectators baffles me. So, no, I don’t see Judo changing back to the repechage system we once had.

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