The Olympics have allowed countless judokas around the world to become household names since judo was first added to the program in 1964. Teddy Riner, Tadahiro Nomura, Kayla Harrison and Yasuhiro Yamashita have all done wonders to grow the sport over the years, and athletes competing at the Tokyo Games have the chance to continue that trend in the sport's birthplace.
Teddy Riner is considered by many as very best judoka on the planet, and the 32-year-old is expected to once again represent France at the Tokyo Games. Riner claimed his first Olympic medal at the Beijing Games in 2008, and he's only continued to improve ever since. He won consecutive heavyweight gold medals in London and Rio and has won gold at an unprecedented 10 world championships to date. Now, Riner has his sights set on winning his third straight Olympic gold medal -- something no one other than legendary judoka Tadahiro Nomura has ever accomplished.
Also expected to return for the Tokyo Games is Cuban judoka Idalys Ortiz. Ortiz, 31, is a legend in her home country and is focused on winning another gold medal in the women's heavyweight class. She won a bronze medal in Beijing at 18 years old and followed up her successful Olympic debut with a gold medal at the London Games in 2012. At the Rio Games, Ortiz was defeated by France's Emilie Andeol and ended up with silver.
The United States will be without one of its top judokas when the festivities get underway in Tokyo. Kayla Harrison, who won consecutive gold medals as a half heavyweight in London and Rio, is not expected to compete in the Tokyo Games after shifting her focus to mixed martial arts, where she is undefeated through eight bouts. She is the current women's lightweight champion in the Professional Fighter's League and won her Invicta Fighting Championships debut in November.
Columbian judoka Yuri Alvear will also not be returning for the Tokyo Games. Alvear has participated in every Olympics since 2008. She won a bronze medal in London and a silver medal in Rio, but is fresh off an operation to the menisci in her right leg that will keep her out of action when the Tokyo Games begin.
New Faces to Watch
One of the top rising stars expected to make noise at the Tokyo Games is Italy's Manuel Lombardo.
The 22-year-old is already one of the top ranked judokas at 66 kilograms in the world, and he's looking forward to making a name for himself in Tokyo against some of the world's elite.