BAKU – Sarah Asahina clinched gold in the over 78-kg weight class at the World Judo Championships on Wednesday as all nine Japanese reached the podium in the women’s classifications.
It was the first time since the inauguration of the women’s world championships in 1980 that every Japanese female competitor achieved a podium finish in the individual competitions at the judo worlds.
Asahina, who was runner-up last year at the Budapest worlds, ensured her status as gold-medal favorite for Tokyo 2020 by beating Rio Olympic silver medalist Idalys Ortiz of Cuba after each took two shido penalties at National Gymnastics Arena.
After more than six minutes Ortiz was penalized for a third time, giving Asahina her first world title and Japan its seventh gold of the Sept. 20-27 championships held in the same format as the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“It’s been 389 days since I lost (to China’s Yu Song in the heavyweight final) last year and I feel blessed to have gone one better this time,” the 21-year-old Asahina said.
“I didn’t lose the battle against myself and that proves I’ve grown as an athlete. I have to tell myself this is just the start and keep on working hard.”
In the men’s over 100-kg, Hisayoshi Harasawa suffered an ippon defeat to Mongolia’s Duurenbayar Ulziibayar in the quarterfinals but managed to pull off a win in the bronze-medal match.
Harasawa, a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, beat world championships debutant Bekmurond Oltiboev of Uzbekistan with an osotogari (major outer reaping throw) for ippon with 25 seconds left on the clock.
“I was aiming to get to the top so it’s very disappointing. But recovering after a quarterfinals loss and taking home a medal gives me hope. I look forward to my next chance at a world title,” Harasawa said.
Yusei Ogawa picked up three penalties in the over 100-kg third-round contest and made an early exit in his first world championships appearance.
Georgia’s Guram Tushishvili won his first heavyweight title. Double Olympic champion and 10-time world champion Teddy Riner of France is taking a break and not fighting in Baku.
Japan has seven golds, five silvers and four bronzes, winning medals in 13 of 14 men’s and women’s weight divisions. The eight-day competition, featuring 755 judoka from 124 countries, was to conclude Thursday with the mixed team events.