In the run up to the Olympic Games, each week we'll be presenting the athletes who will have the privilege of competing for Belgium in Paris between 26 July and 11 August 2024. We will present them discipline by discipline… Today, we're highlighting those who excel in the martial arts with our judokas and taekwondoka!

Judo is a martial art derived from jiu-jitsu. Created in Japan by Dr Jigoro Kano when he opened his first dojo in 1882, judo means "way of gentleness" in Japanese.

The aim is to throw your opponent to the ground, immobilise them or force them to give up, using joint locks and chokes. There are two main types of advantage in modern judo. The Ippon consists of a significant impact on the back with force, speed and control, an abandonment (caused by a choke or arm lock), or a 20-second immobilisation on the ground. The Ippon gives immediate victory to the person who inflicts it on their opponent. A waza-ari follows an impact in which one of the three Ippon criteria is missing, or an immobilisation of less than 20 seconds (but more than ten seconds). Two waza-ari are equivalent to an Ippon and give victory to the person who executes them.

Judo is divided into weight categories for men and women, with fights lasting four minutes and going into overtime if the score is tied.

Belgium can be proud of the many champions it has produced in recent decades. And our judokas in Paris will, of course, be vying for medals.


  • Jorre Verstraeten: born in Leuven on 4 December 1997, this judoka competes in the lightweight category (under 60 kg). He recently won bronze medals at major international tournaments in Tel Aviv and Antalya.
  • Matthias Casse: born in Antwerp on 19 February 1997, he will compete in the under 81kg category. He has already climbed to world number one and was silver medallist at the 2023 world championships.
  • Toma Nikiforov: this Belgian judoka of Bulgarian origin, born on 25 January 1993, competes in the under 100kg category. He won the gold medal at the European Championships in 2021.


  • Gabriella Willems: born on 1 July 1997, this Belgian judoka competes in the middleweight category (under 70 kg). She is a three-time Belgian champion in her category. In May, she finished 5th at the World Championships in Abu Dhabi after beating world No. 4 Michaela Polleres in the third round.

Taekwondo is a martial art originating in Korea, meaning "the way of the foot and fist". It dates back to the Three Kingdoms era (50 BC). It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the sport was exported, culminating in the creation of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) in 1973.

This martial art is based on a rapid combination of arm and leg movements, and takes place in an octagon-shaped combat area, over three rounds of two minutes each. Points are scored according to the technical nature of the strike. For example, a kick to the head is worth more points than a blow to the torso, and an inverted technique is worth additional points. Penalties may be imposed for various faults committed by competitors.

  • Sarah Chaâri: the Charleroi native has already built up an impressive track record in just two years. In 2022, she was crowned World Junior Champion in Sofia in August and World Senior Champion in Guadalajara in November. In 2023, she also won gold at the European Games in Krakow. This year, Sarah Chaâri was crowned European champion. She will be competing in the 57-67kg middleweight category.

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