• Kyodo


Soichi Hashimoto and Nami Nabekura won gold Friday as Japan cemented its place on top of the medal table on Day 2 of the World Judo Masters.

Hashimoto, 28, was awarded the men’s 73-kg gold medal after his final opponent, Israel’s Tohar Butbul, pulled out due to injury.

Hashimoto defeated Kosovo’s Akil Gjakova by ippon in the semifinals. Butbul advanced from the semifinals with a win over former world champion Masashi Ebinuma, who went on to take bronze.

Hashimoto, the 2017 world champion, improved his chances of a 2020 Tokyo Games berth by winning the Masters, which serves as an Olympic team selection event.

“I had good momentum right through to the final, and I was able to stay composed in my matches,” he said.

“It’s going to be tough to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, but it was nice to get the win for the people around me who have given me their support.”

Asian Games champion Nabekura defeated three-time defending world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou of France in the women’s 63-kg final.

The 22-year-old Nabekura reached the gold-medal match by beating countrywoman Miku Tashiro, while Agbegnenou overcame Masako Doi in the semis.

“I tried to be aggressive and fight with confidence. I competed like my life depended on it, but with nothing to fear,” Nabekura said. “I want to make some further adjustments so I can win again next time.”

Tashiro and Doi — who claimed her first Grand Prix title in Budapest in July — won their respective bronze medal playoffs.

Chizuru Arai took bronze in the women’s 70 kg division, won by the Netherlands’ Kim Polling, after falling to Dutchwoman Sanne van Dijke in the semis.

Japan leads the medal tally with four gold, a silver and four bronze, ahead of the Netherlands on one gold and one silver.

The Grand Slam is one of the selection events for the Japanese Olympic team at next year’s Tokyo Games.

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