Japan ended the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Championships in Tokyo in style by winning the mixed team event for the third year in succession.
The hosts defeated France 4-2, Shori Hamada pinning Madeleine Malonga in osaekomi to seal victory following an enthralling series of final bouts.
Japan had called up two of their biggest names – Shohei Ono and Chizuru Arai – for the final, and they proved crucial in ensuring they retained the mixed team title claimed from Budapest in 2017 and Baku last year.
Bronze medals went to Russia and Brazil, after they claimed victories over Azerbaijan and Mongolia respectively.
In the mixed team event, teams of three male judoka, at under-73 kilograms, under-90kg and over-90kg, and three female judoka, from under-57kg, under-70kg and over-70kg, competed together under their national flags. This year’s event had even more importance, as the mixed team competition will make its Olympic debut as a medal event at Tokyo 2020 next summer.
Japan were dominant in reaching the final, seeing off South Korea and Brazil without losing a fight, whilst France were less convincing, needing to come from behind in all of their matches against Austria, Cuba and Russia.
In the final, Japan started strongly in the men’s over-90 kilogram fight, Kokoro Kageura sweeping Cyrille Maret for ippon.
Any thoughts the packed home crowd were having of a whitewash were quickly erased however, when under-57kg silver medallist Tsukasa Yoshida was thrown for ippon by Sarah-Leonie Cysique after just 24 seconds.
Ono then took centre stage and continued his fine performance from throughout these Championships after returning from a three-year absence while he studied at university. The under-73kg world and Olympic champion ruthlessly threw Guillaime Chaine twice within 30 seconds using his favoured uchi-mata technique to put Japan ahead.
Arai, who lost her under-70kg title in one of the most stunning upsets of these Championships, then put Japan one win from the title as she beat Marie-Ève Gahié, the woman who took her individual crown. After an engrossing fight, in which Gahié nearly threw Arai for ippon, the Japanese judoka won by osaekomi in the final 30 seconds of the match.
Axel Clerget gave France hope as he beat Sanshiro Murao in the under-90kg clash, overcoming an extensive mid-fight medical time-out for strapping on his shoulder. In golden score, Clerget pinned Murao who tapped out, only for the referee on the tatami to initially miss the submission and it to be awarded by video decision.
The title then came down to a repeat of the under-78kg final between Malonga and Hamada, with the Japanese judoka gaining revenge for the loss of her individual crown with a ruthless osaekomi in the final bout of an extraordinary week of judo.
The final of the mixed team event brought the Championships to a close with organisers of next year’s Olympic Games say they are “delighted” with the event which have doubled as a test event for Tokyo 2020. The World Championships have taken place at the Nippon Budokan in the Japanese capital city, which will also host the Olympic judo competition next summer. It provided an opportunity to test how the organisation and facilities would hold up to hosting a major sporting event ahead of the Games.
A number of Tokyo 2020 test events have produced mixed results, however, with the judo taking place indoors and at a venue which has hosted competitive martial arts events for decades, including the 1964 Olympics when the sport made its debut in the Games, organisers revealed they are very satisfied with how the test event has gone.
“We are delighted with the proceedings and the outcome of the IJF World Judo Championships Tokyo 2019,” Masa Takaya, Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, said.
“Athletes were able to give their best performances in front of thousands of fans in the Nippon Budokan, Japan’s heart of martial arts.
“The Championships also served as a Tokyo 2020 test event and our teams on site were able to learn a lot which further guarantees the successful delivery of the Games next year.
“This is all very satisfying and exciting, and we are looking forward to the comeback of judo in its Olympic birthplace at the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
The final few days of individual competition produced some stunning performances and a series of shock results along the way.
Saturday saw Lukáš Krpálek become a two-weight IJF world champion after triumphing in the over-100 kilograms weight category. Czech Republic judoka Krpálek previously won the 2014 World Championship and the 2016 Olympic gold medal at under-100kg, but stepped up to the top weight category and claimed an historic victory.
Ranked second for the tournament, the 28-year-old defeated Japanese fourth seed Hisayoshi Harasawa in front of a partisan crowd at the Nippon Budokan. Krpálek picked up two shido penalties in the first 90 seconds of the final, so had to attack through the rest of the fight.Harasawa took a medical time-out and was constantly told to re-order his judogi by the referee, as he appeared to be playing for time and relief from the relentless attacks. However, he was eventually given a third passivity penalty and eliminated.
It now sets up the intriguing possibility of Krpálek fighting over-100kg great Teddy Riner at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Double heavyweight Olympic gold medallist Riner missed these Championships, but intends to return to Tokyo next summer and appears to have a new rival in Krpálek.
Reigning world champion and top seed Guram Tushishvili of Georgia had looked in strong form, winning all four preliminary matches, but he missed out on a medal after losing both bouts in the evening session.
In the women’s over-78kg, Japanese teenager Akira Sone claimed an astonishing home gold medal, defeating twice world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Idalys Ortiz in the final.
Sone, 19, defended for the majority of the regulation time before going on the attack against the Cuban in the golden score period. Watched by team mate and close friend Uta Abe, who won gold in the under-52kg earlier in the week, she clearly had greater energy as the fight wore on, Ortiz standing hands on hips as Sone bounced on the balls of her feet on the tatami.
Eventually Ortiz made an error, stepping out of the blue fighting area without being forced which earned her a fatal third shido and handed the fight to Sone.
Friday saw Madeleine Malonga beat the world number one and reigning champion Shiro Hamada of Japan on her way to gold in the under-78 kilograms category.
It continues a sensational tournament for the French judo team, with their female fighters having won gold on each of the previous three days.
Fourth seed Malonga was up against two-time former champion and top seed Marya Aguiar in her semi-final, but swept aside the Brazilian to set up a clash with Hamada in front of her home crowd in Tokyo.However, the French fighter produced another excellent display, an uchi-mata getting her an early waza-iri. Hamada tried an immediate response with tomoe-nage, but nothing was given, to the obvious disappointment of the home supporters. Undaunted, Malonga claimed the ippon with o-soto-gari to claim the title.
Bronze went to Aguiar – her sixth career World Championships medal – and to Kosovo’s Loriana Kuka, who defeated European Games champion Klara Apotekar of Slovenia.
In the men’s under-100kg, Jorge Fonseca won Portugal’s first ever World Championships gold medal with an attacking and energetic display in the final against Russia’s Niyaz Ilyasov.
Fonseca won by a single waza-iri point – going for seoi-nage, pushing through his technique as Ilyasov tried to scramble away on the tatami. The eighth seed gave every ounce of energy trying to complete the victory with an ippon, only defending in the final few seconds.
Aaron Wolf won bronze for Japan, as did Michael Korrel of The Netherlands, the Dutchman beating 2018 champion and second seed, Korea’s Cho Gu-ham.
Thursday was a day of upsets and shocks which ended in gold medals for Marie-Ève Gahié in the women’s under-70 kilogram category and Noël van ‘t End in the men’s under-90kg.
French second seed Gahié went one better than her performance at the 2018 Championships, defeating surprise finalist Barbara Timo of Portugal, the world number 29, in the final in Tokyo.
Timo had earlier eliminated world champion, number one seed and prime Japanese medal candidate Chizuru Arai by a waza-ari score, before performing some outstanding defensive judo for the remaining three minutes of the fight. However, she fell short in the final, tapping out when Gahié got her to ground and executed a perfect jūji-gatame arm-lock.
Bronze medals went to Gahié’s compatriot and world number 11 Margaux Pinot, and also to Sally Conway of Britain, who added third place here to her podium finish at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Van ‘t End broke Japanese hearts as he defeated Shoichiro Mukai in an enthralling final, throwing the home hopeful for a waza-iri with 24 seconds remaining.
The Dutch world number 10 had never won a major IJF Championship medal, but took his opportunity after none of the top four seeds made it to the final session in the evening.
World champion and number one seed Nikoloz Sherazadishvili of Spain lost his second match against France’s Axel Clerget by a waza-ari score, while second-ranked Krisztian Toth of Hungary was beaten in the quarter-finals by world number 74 Marcus Nyman. Sweden’s Nyman, European champion in 2010, has twice retired from judo but made a dream run in Tokyo, going from one of 12 male judokas who had to fight in round one all the way to the final four, before being beaten by Mukai.
Mukai, not considered one of the stars of the Japanese team, defeated third seed Ivan Felipe Silva Morales of Cuba with a textbook ko-uchi-gari for ippon in his quarter-final, but could not defeat van ‘t End in the final. Van ‘t End needed medical time-outs to deal with finger injuries in both the semi and final, but managed to claim gold for The Netherlands in the same arena where judo great Anton Geesink won the first Olympic medal in the sport during the 1964 Games.
Bronze went to Clerget for the second World Championships in succession, and to 2017 world champion Nemanja Majdov of Serbia.
Wednesday saw Israel’s Sagi Muki win his first IJF World Championships gold medal in the men’s under-81 kilogram category as world number one Saeid Mollaei under-performed in both finals matches.
Reigning champion Mollaei looked unstoppable in the preliminaries, but claimed to have suffered a head injury and there were doubts he would even take to the tatami for the evening session.
After Muki narrowly won his semi-final against Egypt’s Mohamed Abdelaal, Mollaei appeared for his clash with Matthias Calle of Belgium wearing a huge bandage on his head, and barely attempted a throw during the bout, before being thrown for ippon by Calle’s first real attack.
Mollaei was similarly unimpressive in his bronze-medal match, losing to world number 29 Luka Maisuradze of Georgia.
In the final, 2019 European Games champion Casse began on the offensive and attempted a sutemi-waza sacrifice technique, with Muki rather flat and defensive. However, he raised his game with 90 seconds left and earned a waza-iri with an arm throw on the counter-attack, before completing the win shortly after.
The other bronze medal went to Antoine Valois-Fortier, the world number 12 from Canada.
In the women’s under-63 kilogram final, Clarisse Agbegnenou won her fourth World Championships gold after a thrilling final victory over Miku Tashiro, with the bout lasting more than 10 minutes and bringing a standing ovation from the crowd.
French star Agbegnenou, winner in 2014, 2017 and 2018, blitzed her way through the preliminary stages and won her three early fights in less than two minutes combined before being tested by Japan’s Tashiro.
Agbegnenou was more attacking in the early stages, but Tashiro refused to back down and looked to gain confidence as the match went to golden score. Both traded every technique in the book, and Agbegnenou was visibly tired before managing to throw Tashiro and win her third world crown in a row.
Bronze medals went to Juul Franssen, who beat Dutch team mate Sanne Vermeer, and Germany’s Martyna Trajdos, who won by default after Slovenia’s Tina Trstenjak was disqualified for attempting an illegal move in her semi-final against Tashiro.