PARIS – Teenage judoka Kentaro Iida earned his first career Grand Slam title on Sunday when he won the men’s 100-kg division on the final day of competition in Paris.
Japan picked up five gold medals in men’s competition and two on the women’s side in the two-day event that was contested under new rules, including shortened matches and scrapping of yuko points as well as ippon through “awase waze,” or two successive waza-ari.
In the final, 18-year-old Iida, a senior at Tokyo’s Kokushikan High School, overcame pressure from the home crowd to beat Rio bronze medalist Cyrille Maret of France for his sixth win in as many bouts at the French capital’s AccorHotels Arena.
“I didn’t care (about the crowd) and I was able to focus,” said Iida, who scored a waza-ari with his trademark uchimata throwing technique.
“It was an exhausting day but I enjoyed it. I hope I can continue this run and make it to the world championships,” he said of the Aug. 28-Sept. 3 event in Budapest.
In the quarterfinal, Iida threw Georgian Varlam Liparteliani, whom Japan’s Mashu Baker beat in the Rio Olympics 90-kg final, to the mat for an ippon victory.
In the men’s over 100-kg final, Takeshi Ojitani defeated fellow Japanese Ryu Shichinohe.
Shichinohe, born to a Japanese father and Belgian mother, finished second in the 2014 and 2015 world championships but missed out on an Olympic berth in Rio, and had hoped to get to the podium’s top step after settling for third at Grand Slam Tokyo in December.
In the men’s 90-kg, Kenta Nagasawa made a third-round exit.
In the women’s over 78-kg, 20-year-old Sara Asahina beat Rio bronze medalist Kanae Yamabe in another all-Japan final.
In what was her second Grand Slam title, Asahina secured the victory when her opponent received three shido penalties.
Chizuru Arai also took the top spot on the podium after beating Canada’s Kelita Zupancic in the women’s 70-kg final.
Ruika Sato was second in the women’s 78-kg, and Saki Niizoe finished seventh in the women’s 70-kg.
IJF asks for team event
The International Judo Federation has officially submitted papers to the International Olympic Committee requesting a mixed gender team event be included on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program, IJF President Marius Vizer said Sunday.
According to Vizer, the IJF submitted a proposal that a mixed team event including three women (57, 70 and over 70-kg) and three men (73, 90 and over 90) be added to the Olympic program to “increase the value” of the sport as well as of the Olympic Games.
Vizer said new rules were adopted at the Feb. 11-12 Grand Slam event in Paris to simplify the sport and make it easier to understand for spectators and the media. The four-minute bout was tested with the team event in mind.