BUDAPEST – Ai Shishime defeated Natsumi Tsunoda in an all-Japan final of the women’s 52-kg competition at the world judo championships Tuesday, while countryman Hifumi Abe claimed the gold medal in the men’s 66 kg.
Shishime, 23, claimed an ippon victory over 25-year-old Tsunoda with an uchimata inner-thigh throw after both world meet newcomers posted upset wins in the semifinals in the Hungarian capital.
“I became a bit impatient after getting two shido penalties, but I concentrated on my own judo,” said Shishime.
“I had a series of tough bouts, but I overcame them with a strong mind. Once I went as far as the final I was all the more eager to win. I had a 1-1 head-to-head record (against Tsunoda) and I really wanted to beat her.”
Shishime beat last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympic champion and world No. 1 Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo in extra time to set up a final meeting with Tsunoda, who prevailed over third-ranked Gili Cohen of Israel in the other semifinal.
“I’m really disappointed,” said Tsunoda, who settled for silver. “I had injuries and did not have enough training.”
Japan women’s team coach Katsuyuki Masuchi said both Shishime and Tsunoda fought to the best of their abilities and wishes both could have won gold medals.
“Seeing them during training camp, I expected to see good results. Shishime has foot techniques and throwing power. Tsunoda overcame injury and did more than enough,” said Masuchi.
Abe, also making his debut at the worlds, had three straight ippon triumphs from the quarterfinals to the final, where he defeated Mikhail Puliaev of Russia, who had also finished with a silver medal at the two previous worlds in 2014 and 2015.
According to the All Japan Judo Federation, Abe, who turned 20 this month, is the third-youngest male judoka from Japan to win gold at either the worlds or the Olympics.
“I’ve trained for this day, so I’m filled with happiness. I was able to remain calm and fight my own fight. I feel like I’ve taken a step forward for (a gold at the 2020) Tokyo (Olympics). I hope to keep up this pace,” said Abe.
Japan men’s team coach Kosei Inoue called the win “excellent” and said Abe put on a show that was characteristic of his fighting style.
“I think he was able to make an impression on the world. But he has room for improvement and will continue to grow. The Tokyo Olympics are where he will shine,” said Inoue.
Six of seven Japanese judoka who have competed so far in the Aug. 28-Sept. 3 meet have won medals.