DUSSELDORF, GERMANY – Shohei Ono captured gold at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam for the third straight year on Saturday, earning a decisive victory in a bid to defend his Olympic title on home soil this summer.
Ono defeated South Korea’s An Chang-rim in the men’s 73-kg final for his 35th consecutive win, according to the International Judo Federation.
“I got the feeling that everyone in the 73-kg division was aiming for my neck. It was thrilling to be face-to-face with death,” Ono said.
The 28-year-old Tenri University star was competing in his first tournament since winning his third 78-kg title at the world championships last August.
“I didn’t come to Germany to make the Olympic team, I’m just trying to psych myself into a higher state of mind,” he said.
In other action on the second day in Dusseldorf, former world champion Chizuru Arai and Miku Tashiro also virtually booked Olympic berths with respective wins in the women’s 70-kg and 63-kg weight classes.
Rio de Janeiro Olympic bronze medalist Takanori Nagase lost his first bout in the men’s 81-kg contest to Georgia’s Tato Grigalashvili, who went on to win gold.
Japan leads the three-day tournament with six golds and one silver.
Nearly all the Japanese judoka in competition at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam are Tokyo Olympic favorites. The members of Japan’s 2020 Olympic team are expected to be discussed a meeting of the All Japan Judo Federation’s training committee on Thursday.