INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – Japan’s women staved off South Korea in a heated battle to win the inaugural judo team event at the Asian Games on Tuesday night.
South Korean men took to the mat first against Kazakhstan and had to rally on the way to a 4-1 rout to snatch the gold in the men’s event, but the Japanese women played spoiler to deny the host nation a double on the final day of competition in front of a packed house at Dowon Gymnasium.
In the final, Japan had to scrap after falling behind when Misato Nakamura, the 52-kg defending champion here, lost by ippon to Jung Eun-jung.
Her teammates saved the day, coming back for three straight wins, capped by Chizuru Arai’s win against Kim Seong-yeon as the former got revenge over her gold-medal winning opponent following a runnerup finish in the 70-kg final.
“She was the opponent I lost to in the individual final, so I was determined no matter whatever way I did it, I was going to win this match,” said Arai. “I wanted to get a clean throw, but a win is a win, and now I can move forward to my next tournament.
“I lost but my teammates really pulled through to get us this victory,” Nakamura said.
Japan’s women saw off China 4-1 in the first series of matches, Nami Inamori getting revenge against gold medalist Ma Sisi from the over-78-kg final and featuring an ippon victory by 57-kg gold medalist Anzu Yamamoto.
The team stepped up its vigor in the semifinals against Kazakhstan, thrashing the Central Asian nation with five consecutive ippon victories in a clinical 5-0 rout to book a spot in the final against its Korean host.
It was a lot dicier for the Korean women, who needed 2013 world bronze medalist Lee Jung-eun to clinch the final berth by winning the fifth match of the semifinals against Mongolia, getting through 3-2 on aggregate.
Earlier in the women’s quarterfinals, South Korea demoralized North Korea, its northern neighbor which it is technically still at war with, completing a 5-0 romp, featuring a cleanly executed harai-goshi hip throw by Lee against Sol Kyong.
North Korea later handed Kazakhstan a 4-1 drubbing (one bye) in the matches for third place, winning a bronze medal to save pride for the reclusive communist state.
The crowd roared for the Korean men as they dismantled Mongolia, clearing a way to the final against Kazakhstan with a 5-0 victory in the semifinals.
In the final, South Korea rallied to tie it 1-1 and Kim Jae-bum, the 81-kg gold medalist, gave his team the lead when his opponent was disqualified for an illegal maneuver before Lee Kyu-won scored an ippon to clinch it at 3-1.
The Japanese men lost in the quarterfinals, Uzbekistan snatching victory by a thin 3-2 margin, with Asian Games over-100 kg bronze medalist Abdullo Tangriev clinching passage in a win over Yusuke Kumashiro who fights at 100 kg.
Japan’s team bounced back to wallop Saudi Arabia 5-0 in repechage en route to beating Mongolia 3-2 to take one of the bronze medals.