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Asahina earns berth at judo worlds with national win

Kyodo

Sara Asahina punched her ticket for the world judo championships by winning the national women’s championship on Sunday.

The 20-year-old earned Japan’s berth at the worlds in the over-78-kg division by beating Megumi Tachimoto in the final. It was Asahina’s first national crown and she will be making her first trip to the worlds. Tachimoto was gunning for her second title in the event.

“I was driven forward by my desire, and being solely focused on winning is the reason for my victory,” said Asahina, who won her first national weight-class title as a second-year high school student and last year became the first woman to win the national title for four straight years in the top weight class.

Last year she won her division at the Grand Slam Tokyo event and at February’s Grand Slam tourney in Paris.

“This is a confidence-builder,” she said. “From here on, I want to become a competitor who wins not only in Japan but also on the world stage. I’m going to do what needs to be done to win a gold medal at the Tokyo (2020) Olympics.”

Kanae Yamabe, the Rio Olympic bronze medalist in the over-78-kg class and the defending national champion, lost in the third round.