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Japan scoops up medals at world judo championships

Kyodo News

It was deja vu all over again as Japan’s women claimed two gold medals on offer in all-Japanese finals and the men also rose to the occasion to win their third gold of these world judo championships on Sunday.

It was a changing of the guards as Tomoko Fukumi and Misato Nakamura were both denied consecutive world titles by countrywomen Haruna Asami and Yuka Nishida at 48 kg and 52 kg, respectively, in the finals at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

Not to be outdone, Jumpei Morishita, also a tournament debutant, beat Brazil’s Leandro Cunha in the men’s 66 kg final.

Asami scored a yuko point against Fukumi, who was penalized with two shido for passivity while Nakamura lost on the judges’ decision after the pair finished regulation and overtime scoreless.

“The match went as expected for me. I did my best to press forward,” said the 22-year-old Asami, who got revenge over Fukumi after finishing second to her rival at national-weight championships in April.

“I can’t relax even though I was able to win this time since I don’t know if I will be able to compete next year at the worlds. I don’t think I can win easily. My aim is the London Olympics,” she said.

With the two gold medals, Japan’s women took their fifth top podium finish of the Tokyo meet, surpassing the previous best four golds they won at the 1999 Birmingham tournament.

“I was chosen as the second choice, so I knew if I lost today I would have no chance at going to the London Games,” said Nishida. “I was determined to meet her (Nakamura) in the final. It’s meaningful to beat her. Every day is precious, so I want to keep the spirit of a challenger and aim for the world championships next year.”

The victories followed Yoshie Ueno’s title win at 63 kg and Kaori Matsumoto’s win at 57 kg the previous day and Mika Sugimoto’s gold medal at over 78 kg on the opening day.

In the semis, Morishita weathered a storm in an energy-sapping match against France’s Loic Korval. Both men came close several times to executing throws, but the judges gave the decision to Morishita to the disappointment of many French fans in the crowd. Lorval won bronze.

Morishita tossed Cunha to the mat with a hip-throwing technique in the final.

“I can’t believe this but I knew if I got as far as the final I could win. I just stayed relaxed,” said Morishita.

Last year’s 60-kg world silver medalist Hiroaki Hiraoka, who fell in the quarterfinals to Russian Arsen Galstyan, rebounded to take the bronze after deploying a seoinage throw against Russian Beslan Mudranov.

“There is something missing. I don’t have enough strength and my techniques aren’t good enough. This isn’t the color medal I wanted, so I’m determined to work hard to win so I can compete at next year’s worlds,” Hiraoka said.

At 60 kg, Uzbekistan’s Rishod Sobirov beat Georgii Zantaraia of the Ukraine with two waza-ari points for the gold.

Japan has collected eight gold, four silver and six bronze medals thus far in the five-day tournament, where some 850 judoka from 111 countries are competing. The men have improved vastly on their performance from Rotterdam where they failed to win any golds.

Keiji Suzuki, who made a first-round exit at over 100 kg and national champion Kazuhiko Takahashi, who placed fifth in the same weight class, will appear for the men in the open weight category on the final day on Monday. Sugimoto and silver medalist Akari Ogata (78 kg) will compete on the women’s side.