Shoichiro Mukai powered through the men’s 90-kg division at the World Judo Championships on Thursday until losing in the final, while compatriot Chizuru Arai, the defending women’s 70-kg champion, was knocked out early.
In the men’s 90-kg final, Dutchman Noel van ‘t End scored 3 minutes, 25 seconds into the match and was handed his second penalty seconds later. As the clock ticked down, Mukai attacked ferociously but could not score and collapsed to the mat at the finish.
“I don’t know why I couldn’t have hung in there a little bit more,” Mukai said. “I was quite calm, but slipped up just a bit.
“Although I’ll gain confidence from this, finishing runner-up is no different from losing in the first round. I absolutely do not want to lose again.”
Japan has not won the division at the worlds since Hiroshi Izumi took gold in 2005.
This year’s championships are being held at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, where the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1964 and which will reprise that role next year at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Mukai, who won a mixed team gold medal at last year’s worlds, advanced to the final after a quarterfinal victory by ippon over 2018 world silver medalist Ivan Felipe Silva of Cuba.
In the women’s 70-kg division, Arai was eliminated in the third round, marking the first time no Japanese has medaled in the division. France’s Marie-Eve Gahie, last year’s silver medalist, captured her first world championship.
Through five days of competition, Japan’s men have earned two gold medals and the women one.