RIO DE JANEIRO – London Olympic bronze medalist Masashi Ebinuma will face local favorite Charles Chibana of Brazil in his first match when he makes his bid for a gold medal in the men’s 66-kg class at the judo competition at the Rio Summer Olympics.
The International Judo Federation announced on Thursday the draw for the seven-day tournament kicking off Saturday at Carioca Arena in Rio de Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca.
For Japanese judoka trying to regain their dominance at the top of the medals table after an abysmal performance at the 2012 London Games, the draw was particularly tough on Ebinuma and compatriot Ami Kondo, who is making her Olympic debut, in the women’s 48-kg category.
The 21-year-old Kondo, who is the 2014 world champion and has a bye into the second round, could possibly meet Dilara Lokmanhekim of Turkey in her pool. Kondo lost to the Turkish woman in her first match at the 2015 Rabat Masters, where she also had a second-round bye.
“For Kondo the opponent from Turkey is someone she has had her sights on, and since she will get the chance to face her early from the first match we are going to have to get her prepared,” said Japanese women’s coach Mitsutoshi Nanjo.
“The Turkish opponent is a judoka who likes to use her feet and has good techniques, so Kondo has to stay loose.”
Chibana, a second-generation Japanese who has held the world No. 1 rank, will be looking to take advantage of a partisan crowd against three-time world champion Ebinuma. Japanese men’s coach Kosei Inoue, however, said that comes with the territory.
“I have talked with him on the assumption that something like this might happen,” Inoue said. “I have told all my athletes that in the worst case scenario you could face a tough opponent from the start or in the final. Don’t just go by what the seeding is but be ready for any opponent,” he said.
Hisayoshi Harasawa, who is bidding to become the first Japanese male judoka to win in the over-100-kg weight class since Satoshi Ishii accomplished the feat at the 2008 Beijing Games, has been drawn against 2015 world bronze medalist Adam Okruashvili of Georgia in his first match.
Mashu Baker (90kg) and Ryunosuke Haga (100 kg) will face Marc Odenthal of Germany and Maxim Rakov of Kazakhstan, respectively.