Final preparations are being made prior to the start of the World Sambo Championships ©ITG

International Sambo Federation (FIAS) executive director Sergey Tabakov expects this year’s World Sambo Championships here in Tashkent to throw up "many surprises" following the sport’s recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

A total of 349 athletes from 49 countries will compete across 21 categories in the men’s, women’s and combat disciplines in the Uzbek capital.

There are 14 more nations participating compared to last year’s event in Novi Sad in Serbia which was affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although this year’s total is 31 fewer than the figure at the 2019 edition in Cheongju in South Korea, Tabakov said it was a "very good result" considering the world is still gripped by the global health crisis.

It will be the first World Sambo Championships to be held since the FIAS gained full recognition by the IOC.

Russia is the dominant force in sambo, but Tabakov believes the IOC Session's decision prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in July will enhance the performance of other nations.

"It is a new generation with new people and new leaders," Tabakov told insidethegames.

"This year will be very interesting because of the recognition of our sport.

"Many people say that sambo is an Olympic sport and it is very important for the future.

"New people come from other sports, with motivation for results so there will be many surprises.

"If people say, 'Who is the leader? Is it the Russian team?'

"I say 'I don’t know because the host country is strong.'

"Many years ago the Soviet team consisted of different nationalities, like Uzbekistan, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

FIAS executive director Sergey Tabakov hopes to see more nations win medals at this year's World Sambo Championships ©ITG
FIAS executive director Sergey Tabakov hopes to see more nations win medals at this year's World Sambo Championships ©ITG

"There will be many surprises because the Asian republics of the Soviet Union had good traditions in wrestling.

"People ask me, 'What is the best result?'

"For us it is firstly how many countries will take part, secondly how many players in each categories participate and then how many countries take the medals."

The total prize fund for the World Championships is $231,000 (£172,000/€201,500) with gold medallists winning $4,000 (£3,000/€3,500) each at Tashkent’s Yunusobod Sport Complex.

COVID-19 countermeasures have been put in place by the FIAS, with all participants undergoing regular testing.

"Already on Friday, athletes entering the mat will compete not only for the title of the strongest sambists on the planet, but also for the leading positions in the world ranking," said FIAS President Vasily Shestakov.

"I am sure that the audience will enjoy the upcoming fights, will witness the manifestation of fortitude and a clash of characters."

Last year’s World Championships saw Russia top the standings with 25 medals 17 of them gold, followed by Belarus with 13 medals in total and three golds. 

Ukraine won 19 medals and Uzbekistan 10, with each earning two golds.

Russian athletes will compete under the name of the All-Russian Sambo Federation (RSF) due to sanctions imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency which also resulted in the World Championships being moved from the country's capital Moscow to Tashkent.

Like at the Olympic Games, the Piano Concerto No. 1 by classical composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky will be played instead of the Russian national anthem.

The RSF has selected a 21-strong squad including reigning champions Nikita Kletskov, Sergey Ryabov, Olga Artoshina and Artem Osipenko who is aiming to secure his 10th world title.

Two-time world and European champion Denis Goltsov is set to make his first appearance at the World Championships in the combat over-98 kilograms category in three years.

"I am feeling good," Goltsov told insidethegames.

"I think COVID gave us the chance to prepare for this and everyone became hungry for competition.

"I have had a good career as a professional MMA [mixed martial arts] fighter.

"I had a good season in the USA and now I am ready for sambo.

"I have not had international competition in sambo for three years so I don’t know who I will come up against.

"It will be very interesting.

"We had a good 10-day camp and I think I am in good condition for this World Championships."

Competition is due to start tomorrow with athletes set to battle it out for medals in the women’s under-50 kilograms, 54kg and 59kg, men’s 58kg and 64kg, and combat 98kg and over-98kg categories.

insidethegames will be providing a Live Blog for all three days of competition.