Joshiro Maruyama and Ai Shishime were triumphant at the judo world championships on Monday, cementing Japan at the top of the medal table in Budapest.
Shishime took the women’s 52-kilogram category, recapturing the title she last won in 2017, before Maruyama went back-to-back as men’s 66-kg world champion.
Members of the Japanese team for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics are not contesting the June 6-13 championships at Budapest’s Laszlo Papp Arena.
With his Olympic dream coming to an end in a heartbreaking playoff loss to Hifumi Abe last December, the 27-year-old Maruyama retained his world championship crown by patiently outpointing world No. 1 Manuel Lombardo of Italy in the final.
“I was able to fight without giving (him) a chance. I’m relieved,” said Maruyama, who is already looking ahead to the 2024 Paris Olympics. “This championship will provide momentum.”
Budapest once again proved a happy hunting ground for Shishime, who won her first world championship in the Hungarian capital four years ago.
She overwhelmed Spain’s Ana Perez Box in the final, earning an ippon victory after throwing and pinning her opponent.
The 27-year-old said she felt pressured to bring home the gold due to the absence of French world No. 1 Amandine Buchard and reigning Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo.
“I feel relieved,” said Shishime, who is also focused on reaching the Olympic stage in three years’ time. “Maybe I can keep this going.”
Japan has three gold medals through two days of the tournament, with Natsumi Tsunoda having won the women’s 48-kg category on the opening day.
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