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Uta Abe defends women's 52-kg title at judo worlds, defeats Russia's Natalia Kuziutina

Kyodo

Japan’s Uta Abe defended her title in the women’s 52-kg division at the judo world championships on Monday.

Joshiro Maruyama won the men’s 66-kg class in his world championship debut on the second day of the weeklong tournament. He defeated Abe’s brother and two-time defending champion, Hifumi, in an all-Japan semifinal clash before winning the title.

In the women’s 52-kg final, Abe only needed 30 seconds to seal her victory against Russia’s Natalia Kuziutina. She threw the reigning Olympic bronze medalist for an ippon victory at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, the venue for next year’s Summer Games.

She beat Rio de Janeiro Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo in the semis by pinning her opponent on the mat during extra time.

“I’m very glad I was able to repeat in Tokyo,” the 19-year-old Abe said. “I wanted to win no matter what. I was about to give up in my semifinals, but I was able to pull myself together.”

Japan’s Ai Shishime, the 2017 champion and last year’s runner-up, finished with the bronze.

In the men’s 66-kg final, the 26-year-old Maruyama defeated South Korea’s Kim Lim-hwan despite injuring his leg during the tournament.

“I’m very happy. It took me longer to compete at the worlds than other judoka,” Maruyama said. “But my biggest goal is to win gold at the Olympics. I will enjoy my victory today, and start fresh tomorrow.”

Hifumi Abe won his bronze medal match against Italy’s Manuel Lombardo.

This year’s world championships are the first to be held in Japan in nine years. They feature seven weight categories for each gender in addition to the mixed team event set for Sept. 1, the competition’s final day.

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