Japan’s judoka once again showed their strength in numbers and emerged on top of the medal table at the weekend’s inaugural Montreal Grand Prix.
The Japanese contingent’s seven gold medals saw them finish on top of the medal podium this after 248 judoka – 135 men and 113 women – from 49 nations made their way to Canada to compete. The host nation did themselves proud and delighted the home support by coming second in the final medal standings with nine medals.
An exciting first day saw Japan pick up two golds with one each for Canada, Isreal and Mongolia.
In the women -48kg, 18 year old Japanese prospect Wakana Koga claimed the gold over Portugal’s Catarina Costa. The first half of the final seemed to be well balanced with neither athlete being able to take the lead. A first waza-ari was attributed to the Japanese after she executed a low o-uchi-gari, but the video refereeing cancelled the score meaning the contest entered the golden score. After almost four minutes of golden score Costa was penalized with a first shido for passivity before Koga eventually score a waza-ari with a reverse seoi-nage.
Israel’s Gefen Primo claimed the gold in the women’s -52kg final against USA’s Angelica Delgado, the latter succumbing to the last tani-otoshi executed by PRIMO for waza-ari.
Canada took gold and silver in the women’s -57kg final as Christa Deguchi and Jessica Klimkait gave the home fans. Whilst both have hopes of participating in next year’s Olympic Games despite only one spot being available for the two Canadian athletes, their bout saw Klimkait penalized with a first shido for a forbidden gripping. Deguchi then demonstrated her talent when she applied a decisive shime-waza which gave Klimkait no chance to escape.
The final in the men’s -60 weight division saw Robert Mshvidobadze and Naohisa Takato come together rematch of the last world Championships final and it was the former – the current world champion – who came out on top with a perfectly executed uchi-mata for a clear Ippon.
The -66kg final saw 2017 World Master champion Kherlen Ganbold of Mongolia come up against Kenneth Van Gansbeke of Belgium. After four minutes of regular time, both athletes had only one shido each to their name so the contest entered golden score. However, the deadlock was broken after nearly a further five minutes as the Belgian was finally penalised a third time giving Ganbold his third gold medal in a Grand Prix.
Day 2 saw Japan strike gold twice more, with Korea and Germany also notching a top medal each and Canada winning four medals.
Korea’s golden moment came in the women’s -63kg final as Mokhee Cho overcame Great Britain’s Amy Livesey. The Canadian home support had hoped to see top seed of the tournament, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard compete for gold but she was defeated by Livesey in the semi-finals. However she was unable to repeat that success against Cho who took gold by countering the Brit’s uchi-mata for ippon
The women’s -70kg final saw a first success for Germany’s Giovanna Scoccimarro as she beat Canada’s Kelita Zupancic. An evenly matched contest was decided when the home favourite failed in a counterattack and the German struck by ippon to take the gold medal.
The men’s -73kg category saw Soichi Hashimoto prevail over Victor Scvortov of the United Arab Emirates. After both athletes were penalized with a shido for passivity, Hashimoto scored a first waza-ari on a counterattack before clinched the match on the floor with an arm-lock for Ippon.
Takanori Nagase gave Japan a fourth title in some style thanks to victory over Canada’s Antoine Valois-Fortier. Once again it was another tense final which was concluded when Nagase launched a flash attack with a brilliant uchi-mata, which left absolutely no chance for the Canadian to escape for ippon.
Day three and the last day saw Teddy Riner show that he is back and ready to conquer new titles, but it was not an easy day for the ten-time World Champion and two-time Olympic Champion.
For several months, judo fans have been waiting for the comeback of Teddy Riner and having announced several times on the world circuit of the choice to return to the competition in Montreal, all eyes were on the heavyweight category.
After negotiating a difficult semi-final against -100kg Olympic champion, Lukas Krpalek of the Czech Republic, Riner came up against Japan’s Hisayoshi Harasawa in the Final, who he defeated in the final of last Olympic Games. After both judoka were penalised for a series of shidos each, including as the bout went to golden score, Riner threw Harasawa for waza-ari to make his return to action with a gold medal.
In the men’s 90kg final, current Olympic Champion, Mashu Baker won the gold title over three time continental medallist Colton Brown of the USA. With golden score approaching, Brown launched an uchi-mata, which was immediately countered by Baker with in uchi-mata-sukashi for a waza-ari offering the victory to the Olympic Champion.
The 100kg final saw top seed Ramadan Darwish of Egypt make short work of the meeting with Canada’s Shady Elnahas. Buoyed by home support, the latter launched a first attack in the first thirty seconds that was countered by Darwish who counterattacked for a clear ippon.
The first of the remaining women’s finals saw Japan’s Shori Hamada beat Aleksandra Babintseva in the -78kg division.
Despite Hamada being much smaller than her Russian opponent, after less than a minute she launched her first strong attack with a uchi-mata that Babintseva couldn’t escape and was thrown on her back for ippon.
The +78kg final saw another Japanese success as Sarah Asahina beat Israel’s Raz Hershko. The difference in size and ranking were clearly to the advantage of the Japanese, who rapidly scored a first waza-ari, almost immediately followed with a ippon with a te-waza technique.