FUKUOKA – Reigning world champion Shohei Ono beat rival and London Olympic silver medalist Riki Nakaya by ippon in the men’s 73-kg final to claim his maiden title at the National Invitational Weight Class Championships on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Ono executed a well-timed “ukiotoshi” floating drop throw on Nakaya in one of the featured matches in the seven men’s and women’s weight classes contested on the second day at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Nakaya, 24, failed in his bid for his third consecutive title in the event, which also serves as a qualifier for Japan’s team to the world championships to be held in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in August.
“It was my first time in awhile that I had a great match and that was fun,” said Ono, who sent his opponent to the mat at 4 minutes, 31 seconds into the match.
“I’m not concerned about winning or losing, but I feel great that I am able to take part in judo. Today had nothing to do with strength or technique but was all about my will to win. I want to continue to have exciting matches for the fans,” he said.
Naohisa Takato, the world champion at 60 kg, and 21-year-old Kengo Takaichi (66 kg), claimed their first weight class titles. London Olympic bronze medalist and two-time defending world champion Masashi Ebinuma lost by ippon to Takaichi in the semifinals, but was later named to the squad for the worlds based on merit.
Takanori Nagase, 20, won his first title at 81 kg.
“Ono is a judoka with power, so I want his judo to be excellent,” said Japan men’s coach Kosei Inoue. “This is the launching point for his fight against the world’s top judoka and he has many things to do before he can defend the world title.”
On the women’s side, Kanae Yamabe triumphed for her first title by beating world bronze medalist Megumi Tachimoto on points in the over-78-kg category, while Ruika Sato (78 kg) and Karen Nunira (70 kg) defended their respective crowns.
Five men, including Ono and Takato, and six women, including Nunira and Sato, gained berths to the worlds. The heaviest weight categories of 100 kg and over 100 kg for the men will be decided at the national championships on April 29. The women’s berth in the over-78 kg class will be decided after the women’s national championships on April 20.