World champion Uta Abe suffered her first defeat on the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Tour in three years on the opening day of the last Grand Slam event of the season, the Osaka Grand Slam.
Abe had won 48 consecutive bouts since her last defeat on the IJF World Tour circuit back in 2016, but the run came to an end in the final of the women’s under-52 kilogram event at the Maruzen Intec Arena Osaka.
She met world number one Amandine Buchard of France in the gold medal bout, with the contest proving closely contest. Buchard snatched victory with a waza-ari score four minutes into a golden score period. As well as ending her winning streak, the loss delayed Abe confirmation as Japan’s representative in the weight division at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Bronze medals were claimed by Japan’s Ai Shishime and Chishima Maeda after they overcame South Korea’s Park Da-Sol and Brazil’s Larissa Pimenta respectively.
The IJF Grand Slam event is traditionally hosted in Tokyo, but has been relocated to Osaka again this year as preparations are focused towards next year’s Olympics in the Japanese capital.
A total of 486 athletes from 87 countries are set to compete in the three-day event in Osaka, with the competition serving as another opportunity for athletes to secure key qualification points towards the Olympic Games.
There may have been disappointment for Uta Abe, but her brother, Hifumi Abe, enjoyed success in the men’s under-66 kg competition.
The former world champion faced a must-win encounter in the gold medal match against reigning world champion Joshiro Maruyama to keep his Tokyo 2020 hopes alive. With the All Japan Judo Federation High Performance Committee determining the all reigning world champions who claimed gold in Osaka would be selected for the Olympics, Abe rose to the challenge by beating Maruyama with a waza-ari score in the gold medal match to keep the Japanese selection alive.
An all-Japanese podium was completed by Yuki Aida and Yuki Nishiyama, who beat Spain’s Daniel Perez Roman and David Garcia Torne.