National team coach Kosei Inoue is upbeat over the depth of Japanese judo and heated competition among domestic athletes as 10 of his 18 selected members will make their world championships debut in Budapest starting in August.
Only four of Japan’s male and two female Rio Olympians retained their places, with three gold medalists: Shohei Ono (men’s 73-kg division), Mashu Baker (men’s 90 kg) and Haruka Tachimoto (women’s 70-kg) all missing out.
“We’re getting new characters coming through to the Japan national team. I’ll look forward to the battles in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics each year,” Inoue, the 2000 Sydney Games men’s gold medalist at 100 kg, told a news conference Tuesday.
“We’ve got strong judoka coming through one after the other,” added the 38-year-old who guided Japan to medals in all divisions in Brazil.
Hifumi Abe will be making his worlds debut in the men’s 66-kg division and the 19-year-old, vowed to make up for missing the Rio Olympics by going all-out for Tokyo in 2020
“I want to be bold, display judo that goes for ippon and win the tournament,” Abe said. “The only place I can take out the frustration of missing the Rio Games is the Tokyo Games.
“I want this worlds to be an opportunity to show my judo and win it convincingly and make it a first step towards Tokyo.”
Sara Asahina became the youngest female judoka from Japan to make the worlds at the age of 20. She will fight in the 78-kg category after she won her first open-weight national title last month.
“I’ll give my all to show my style of judo, and smile, to the rest of the world,” she said.