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Judoka Arai uses mental toughness to defeat Ono, earn title

Kyodo

Chizuru Arai came back from three shido penalties down to defeat Yoko Ono in the women’s 70-kg division on Saturday on the second day of the Tokyo Grand Slam.

The 22-year-old Arai won her second championship after Ono squandered the advantage by receiving three shidos herself to take the tie to the “golden score” extra time, before Ono received her fourth at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in one of the qualifying competitions for the Olympics next summer.

“It was a mental battle in the end. I doggedly tried to be on the front foot,” said Arai, who took part in her first world championships over the summer but was the only Japanese female participant to return home empty-handed from Astana, Kazakhstan, finishing fifth.

“I’ll not forget that frustration. I’ll keep pushing hard and want to get stronger,” she said.

Among the men, 2010 world champion Hiroyuki Akimoto defeated An Chang-rim of South Korea on a wazaari with a shoulder throw to claim the 73-kg title for the second year in a row and third time overall. Last year’s world champ Riki Nakaya was eliminated in the third round.

“It’s my mission to pursue that little light of hope until the end,” said Akimoto, whose injuries have curtailed him from making the last two Olympics and a single loss on the day would have seen him miss out on another in Rio de Janeiro. “Finding that chance of winning tenaciously is my style.”

In the 81-kg category, world champion Takanori Nagase settled for third place after being adjudged to have committed a foul against Wang Ki-chun of South Korea in the semifinals. Avtandili Tchrikishvili of Georgia prevailed in the final.

“I’m glad this wasn’t the actual Olympics,” said Nagase, who was deemed to have not held onto the hem of the opponent’s kit in executing a double leg takedown.

Japan coach Kosei Inoue is set to file a document to the International Judo Federation asking for an explanation, while IJF’s head referee director Juan Carlos Barcos admitted it was a close call even on a video replay, claiming “getting everything correct will never be the case.”

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