Japan’s Abe Uta will be one of three world champions competing this weekend as she opens her 2019 season on the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Tour at the Grand Prix in Hohhot in China.
The 18-year-old will be vying for glory in the women’s under-52 kilograms category at Inner Mongolia Stadium.
The two other world champions that have made the trip to Hohhot are Iran’s Saeid Mollaei and South Korea’s Cho Gu-ham, in the men’s under-81kg and under-100kg categories, respectively.
Mollaei will have to hold off the man he beat in the 2018 World Championships finals in Azerbaijan's capital Baku, Japan’s Sotaro Fujiwara, who is considered the favourite for the men’s under-81kg title.
Germany’s Dominic Ressel, the 2017 European silver medallist, is also likely to be in contention.
Cho, meanwhile, is expected to face a strong challenge from Canada’s Shady El Nahas, Germany’s Karl-Richard Frey and Russia’s Arman Adamian.
Abe and Cho, 2018 Hohhot Grand Prix winners, will compete on days one and three, respectively, while reigning Olympic champion Lukáš Krpálek and former Olympic gold medallists Idalys Ortiz of Cuba and Naidan Tüvshinbayar of Mongolia will also fight on day three.
It was in Hohhot where the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification period opened one year ago.
Points from competitions now count 100 per cent towards qualification.
Hohhot is hosting its third IJF Grand Prix and this leg of the World Tour is considered the most pivotal event on the calendar so far this year.
The official draw took place at Juva Grand Hotel this afternoon and was opened by IJF competition manager Lisa Allan.
"I want to wish you a heartfelt welcome from the IJF and its President Marius L. Vizer," Allan said.
"We are extremely grateful to CJA (Chinese Judo Association) President Xian Dongmei and the Inner Mongolia Judo Federation.
"I wish all of the participants good luck."
Xian, an IJF hall of famer, added: "On behalf of CJA, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you all here to Hohhot.
"This Grand Prix will be a great event that counts towards the qualification of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
"I’d like to say my thanks to the IJF for their support and we are confident of hosting a successful event.
"I wish all judoka a wonderful competition here in China."
A total of 301 judoka – 159 men and 142 women – are set to compete in Hohhot from 43 countries.
Watch all the action on Judo TV.