France’s Clarisse Agbegnenou survived a huge scare from Miku Tashiro to capture an emotional fourth world judo title Wednesday in a ferocious women’s 63-kg final.
Israel’s Sagi Muki powered to a surprise victory in the men’s 81-kg class at Tokyo’s iconic Nippon Budokan, the venue for next summer’s Olympic Games.
However, it was the women’s half-middleweights who stole the show on Day 4 of the Tokyo 2020 test event.
Agbegnenou, the 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist, took an 8-1 record over Tashiro into the final, a repeat of last year’s championship match in Baku, but had to dig deep to bag her third successive world title.
Feeding of the deafening noise of the home crowd, the plucky Tashiro took Agbegnenou out of her comfort zone with a flurry of attacks in a marathon 11-minute match at the World Judo Championships.
Tashiro to be looked on the cusp of victory when she hooked her opponent’s leg, only to hesitate.
Agbegnenou, with lightning speed, then flipped the Japanese fighter onto her back as both women flopped onto the mat exhausted and in tears.
Agbegnenou gave Tashiro the thumbs up to acknowledge her bravery in a barnstorming final before the two rivals shared a warm embrace.
“That was very, very tough,” said Agbegnenou. “I’m just happy to have pulled it out. It was guts that got me through in the end.
“When I started out in judo, I could never have imagined I would be a four-time world champion,” added the 26-year-old.
“If you had told me ‘Clarisse, you will be world champion once’ then maybe. But four times, I would have said you were crazy.”
Tashiro, who had beaten Slovenia’s Olympic champion Tina Trstenjak in the semifinals, looked inconsolable after failing to improve on her 2018 silver medal.
Germany’s Martyna Trajdos and Dutchwoman Juul Franssen took the bronze medals.
World No. 2 Muki pummeled European champion Matthias Casse, of Belgium, in the men’s 81-kg final, rolling him onto his back with a blistering power move for an ippon victory.
Casse had upset defending champion Saeid Mollaei, of Iran, in the semifinals but was no match for Muki, who was overcome with emotion at winning gold.
Canada’s Antoine Valois-Fortier and Luka Maisuradze of Georgia picked up the bronze medals.
Japan tops the medal table after Joshiro Maruyama, Uta Abe and Shohei Ono each bagged gold earlier in the week.
The 2020 Olympic hosts also dominated the 2018 world championships in Baku, capturing eight of the 15 gold medals available.