PARIS – Kokoro Kageura ended the Paris Grand Slam on a somewhat deflated note Sunday, losing in the over-100-kg division final after ending Teddy Riner’s 10-year undefeated streak in the third round.
The 24-year-old heavyweight stunned the Paris crowd and the judo world when he upset Riner, a 10-time world champion and two-time defending Olympic champion, at his home Grand Slam and ended the Frenchman’s streak of 154 wins dating back to 2010.
“I was waiting for a chance,” Kageura said. “I had my sights set on it.”
The victory, courtesy of an uchi-mata-sukashi counter throw after 40 seconds of golden score, came after months of research and strategic planning.
One of the smaller heavyweights, measuring 179 cm and weighing 120 kg, Kageura said he filled his toolkit with tricks that he practiced over and over to take down an opponent with a 20-cm height advantage.
Kageura said he watched a video of his loss to Riner at last October’s Brasilia Grand Slam “once a day without fail” to find weaknesses in Riner’s unparalleled technique.
“I capitalized on what I had studied about Riner,” Kageura said. “Only I can beat him.”
But Kageura also noticed before the bout that Riner had changed, perhaps as a result of his cutting back on competing in order to focus on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“His body had changed and his legs were getting tangled up. I wondered if he was out of shape,” Kageura said.
Kageura said the realization gave him the confidence to beat the 30-year-old veteran, who won eight consecutive world championships in the over-100-kg division until 2017.
He then blazed into the final at AccorHotels Arena in the French capital with wins over Russia’s Inal Tasoev and Brazil’s Rafael Silva, but missed out on his second Grand Slam gold after falling to Henk Grol of the Netherlands.
Kageura, who is not first in line to make Japan’s Olympic team, said he “will not give up until the end” in the fight to secure a coveted spot at the 2020 Games.
Riner’s previous defeat came against another Japanese judoka, Daiki Kamikawa, in the final of the 2010 open world championships on a referee decision.
In other men’s results, Kenta Nagasawa finished runner-up in the 90-kg weight class after losing to Spain’s Nikoloz Sherazadishvili in the final. Sotaro Fujiwara took bronze in the 81-kg division.
In the women’s field, Yoko Ono prevailed in an all-Japanese 70-kg final against Saki Niizoe while Mami Umeki won bronze in the 78-kg contest.
Japan ended the two-day Olympic qualifier on top with three golds, five silvers and five bronzes.