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Uta Abe Honored as the World's Top Female Judoka

Reigning Olympic champion Uta Abe received the International Judo Federation's top individual accolade for women for the second straight year.

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Uta Abe
Four-time world champion judoka Uta Abe is seen competing in a Tokyo Grand Slam match in this December 2023 file photo. (KYODO)

Uta Abe is the International Judo Federation's 2023 Female Judoka of the Year.

The announcement came on Sunday, February 4 at the IJF's annual awards ceremony in Paris. Abe also claimed the prestigious accolade from judo's global governing body for the 2022 season.

In May 2023, Abe captured her fourth consecutive world title in the under-52 kg weight class in Doha. Then, in December, she triumphed in the Tokyo Grand Slam, which was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Also honored for their noteworthy overall performances in 2023 were Japanese up-and-comer Dota Arai (Rising Star Award) and Georgia's Tato Grigalashvili (Male Judoka of the Year). Arai secured the award after winning the world junior title at 100 kg in 2023. 

Grigalashvili took home the top prize after grabbing the world championship gold at 81 kg for the second year in a row. He finished fifth at the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Uta Abe
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Uta Abe poses with a miniature statue of the Eiffel Tower in this January photo. (ⒸSANKEI)

Uta Abe Looks Ahead to the Paris Olympics

In a video message played at Sunday's ceremony, Abe shared her thoughts on winning the award while also looking ahead to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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"I'm very happy, [and] I want to fight hard on the stage of the Paris Olympics in 2024," Abe said in the video, multiple media outlets reported.

Abe, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in her weight class, is the favorite to repeat at the Paris Games.

What's more, the 23-year-old is unbeaten in IJF-sanctioned matches since 2019.

The women's 52-kg final is scheduled to be held on July 28 in the French capital.

Indeed, the Parisian spotlight will also shine on her older brother, Hifumi Abe, who won the men's 66-kg Olympic title in 2021 and also snatched his fourth world title two years later.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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