Daiki Kamikawa and Mika Sugimoto won the men’s and women’s open weight categories, respectively, giving Japan 10 gold medals for its best result ever on the final day of the world judo championships in Tokyo on Monday.
Japan, which was hosting the meet in Tokyo for the first time in 52 years, surpassed its previous best result of eight gold medals at the 1999 Birmingham meet.
The 20-year-old Kamikawa, who was making his first appearance at the world championships, accomplished what appeared to be an impossible feat by all his countrymen — conquering three-time over 100-kg world champion Teddy Riner of France.
The talk of the five-day tournament at Yoyogi National Gymnasium aside from Japan’s gold-medal rush had been if anyone could stop the French goliath, who was gunning for his first open weight world title.
In the men’s final, neither man could execute a clean throw in regulation, but Riner appeared to have a slight advantage as he was making more efforts to topple his opponent.
Kamikawa swept out Riner’s foot with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in overtime but the Frenchman used his hand to prop himself and lost a split decision by the judges, who raised two white flags for Kamikawa and one blue for Riner.
“I am very happy. I was afraid to fight Riner. My conditioning was OK,” Kamikawa said. “I was trying not to be overwhelmed by the moment and it was really tough. I thought that the flags would come up blue but they were white, so I was really surprised.”
Riner, who was crying inconsolably during the medal ceremony, was angry with the judges’ decision. “I’m a fair player. I would applaud if it was a good match and I lost,” Riner said. “I never cry and I’m mentally strong. I was very upset about the decision.”
Sugimoto faced China’s Qin Qian in the women’s open final, the same opponent she beat at over 78 kg to win the gold on the opening day last Thursday, and defeated her on points to complete a double for the first time for the Japanese women.
Athens Olympics champion Keiji Suzuki, who made a first-round exit at over 100 kg, appeared to have gotten his mojo back when he cruised into the semis with four-straight ippon in the preliminary round before falling at the hands of Kamikawa.
The Japanese pair both looked for openings as the match got under way, but Kamikawa took advantage when Suzuki suddenly lost his balance in a tussle and twisted his opponent onto his back.
Suzuki took third after throwing down Ramiziddin Sayidov of Uzbekistan in the bronze medal match, while Hiroki Tachiyama won the other bronze on offer with an ippon victory over 2009 bronze medalist Abdullo Tangriev of Uzbekistan.
Megumi Tachimoto finished with the bronze after beating Kim Na Young of South Korea.
Earlier, national champion Kazuhiko Takahashi, who was making his debut at the worlds, lost to Sayidov in repechage to finish in fifth after the same result on the opening day at over 100 kg.