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Haga ready to defend world judo title

Kyodo

Ryunosuke Haga said Monday he is prepared to defend the men’s 100-kg title at this week’s world judo championships in Budapest.

“I’m in good condition and very motivated to be able to take a crack at it,” the 26-year-old judoka said of his bid for a second consecutive world crown before departing from Narita airport.

Haga, who won the weight category at the previous world meet in 2015 but settled for bronze at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last summer, left for the Hungarian capital along with Aaron Wolf, who will also compete in the 100-kg class in his first world meet.

“This is my first step” toward the 2020 Tokyo Games, the 21-year-old Wolf said. “I want to win for sure because I don’t think I can get closer to (competing at the Olympics) without winning at this tournament.”

Wolf and Haga are on course to face each other in the final if both advance without a defeat in the competition that runs through Sunday.

In the men’s over-100-kg category, Hisayoshi Harasawa said he will seek revenge against France’s Teddy Riner, to whom he lost in the final at the Rio Games.

Harasawa, who trained with the two-time Olympic champion at an international camp, said, “I’m going to remember the feel from the training. I’ll be more fired up if we face each other in the final.”

A total of 23 Japanese athletes are scheduled to take part in the world championships, including debutant and medal hope Hifumi Abe in the men’s 66 kg.