Tuesday, September 14, 2010

World Judo Championships - Day 5 - September 13, 2010

Yesterday was the 5th and final day of the World Judo Championships. It was the open competition for both men and women, which meant any judoka could enter regardless of weight class. It is said that the essence of judo is in the open competition; the implication being that smaller athletes can use technique to defeat a larger opponent.

Therefore, I was hoping for some variety in the entrants, but generally it was only the bigger athletes who were present. Many of those I saw on Day 1 were back, as well as some judoka who only participated in the open competition.

In the women's tournament, the final bout was a rematch from the +78kg class with Japan's Mika Sugimoto again defeating China's Qian Qin, although this time she did it with a throw, having won on Day 1 when Qin committed 4 shido. That's Sugimoto in white below while Qin is in blue.

On the men's side, there were 3 Japanese in the final four along with +100kg champion, Teddy Riner from France. Riner defeated Hiroki Tachiyama in one semi-final while Daiki Kamikawa knocked off Keiji Suzuki in the other. Both Tachiyama and Suzuki won their bronze medal bouts which left us with just the final.

Kamikawa is a university student while Riner is a 4-time world champion, yet Riner is just 7 months older, having turned 21 back in April. Clearly the Frenchman would be the favourite, but Kamikawa was no slouch, having defeated +100kg silver medalist Andreas Koelzer of Germany with a perfect ippon in the second round.

Riner was strong early, but he couldn't find the necessary strength to throw Kamikawa despite several attempts and after 5 minutes, there was still no advantage. Which brought us to sudden death, where Kamikawa became more aggressive, nearly completing two throws but not enough to gain a winning point. After 3 more scoreless minutes, it was up to the judges to declare the winner.

In this situation, the referee and two judges each hold up a flag denoting who they believe fought the better bout. Kamikawa was wearing white and the referee and one judge held up a white flag while the other judge held up a blue one (below). Kamikawa was the world champion much to the delight of the crowd. Riner was visibly distressed by the decision, wagging his finger as much as to say "No Way" but I felt it was the right call. With the loss, Riner was unable to set a record with a 5th world title.

Despite the upset, I found the judo today to be rather dull at times; there were few ippons and mostly a lot of grappling and defensive posturing. Having the world men's open title decided by a split decision was disappointing, I would have liked to see the final action be a decent throw rather than judges raising flags, but it symbolized what was a disappointing final day for me.

Japan Dominates

Over the 5 days, there were 8 tournaments for each gender, which means 64 total medals awarded (two bronze are given in each tournament). Naturally Japan dominated the medal table, tallying 23 total, including 10 of 16 golds. France was second with just two golds and 6 total, so the rest of the world has some way to go to catch up to Japan in its homegrown sport.

Next Up

Tomorrow I'll check out the Giants and Swallows with Meg who will be hitting stadium #11 on her two-week journey across Japan, then on Thursday we'll go out to Giants Stadium for a minor league game.

That'll end the baseball season for me but there's plenty to see coming up. Top League Rugby is back, the J League still has two months left, the Emperor's Cup is underway, the bj League starts in a month, and there is a futsal league with a couple of teams in Tokyo that I'll be checking out shortly. As always check back regularly for updates.



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