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Japan wins first mixed team gold

Kyodo

Top-seeded Japan defeated Brazil 6-0 to become the first-ever recipient of the mixed team gold medal at the world judo championships Sunday, the final day of action.

All 11 Japanese judoka who were entered for the event, featuring three men and three women, won their respective matches in each of the four rounds through the final, capping a successful week for the country at the Laszlo Papp Budapest Sports Arena.

Japan won 12 medals out of the 14 individual weight categories, including seven gold, in the seven-day championships.

“Seeing men and women from different countries fighting as one left an impression on me,” All Japan Judo Federation chairman Yasuhiro Yamashita said of the competition, which included 21 nations.

“It was a convincing victory for Japan in the team event. We won a total of eight gold medals, including ones from individual events, and Japanese judoka showed their class in the championships like they’ve never done in recent years.”

The mixed-gender event will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo three years from now and was being contested at the senior-level worlds for the first time.

In Sunday’s final, Takeshi Ojitani, who won his second straight national title in the open-weight tournament in April, beat double Olympic bronze medalist Rafael Silva in the men’s over-90 kg category for Japan’s sixth and final win.

“I hadn’t recovered from my disappointment in the individual event but I tried not to carry that into (the team event),” said Ojitani, who was eliminated in the third round in the men’s over-100 kg on Saturday.

“I felt a sense of accomplishment as I was able to show my fighting spirit in the very end. I saw the women doing well and it pressured the men to do it as well,” he said.

Tsukasa Yoshida (women’s 57 kg), Soichi Hashimoto (men’s 73 kg), Chizuru Arai (women’s 70 kg), Kenta Nagasawa (men’s 90 kg) and Sara Asahina (women’s over-70 kg) also secured wins in the final.

The Japanese won Pool A by beating both Ukraine and Germany 5-1 and defeated South Korea in the semifinal by the same margin.

“Teamwork led to victory and of course the athletes did well, but our backroom staff and training partners deserve credit as well. This is the beginning. I hope to work hard to keep up these excellent results next year, the following year and in 2020,” said men’s national team coach Kosei Inoue.

Next year, the world judo championships will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, and in 2019 it will be contested in Tokyo.