Tue, Sep 16, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Japanese hail judo comeback despite slippery-jacket row

AFP , OSAKA, JAPAN

A dispute over a slippery judo jacket may have denied hosts Japan a perfect ending to the world judo championships although they have heaved themselves back from a disastrous performance two years ago.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) ruled out a breach of fair play in the case of middleweight Yoshihiro Akiyama, whose slippery jacket, or judogi, has drawn protests from France, Mongolia and Turkey.

Akiyama was forced to change his judogi, which was suspected of being waxed to make it difficult for his opponents to grip.

He had beaten opponents from the three countries to reach an 81kg light middleweight semifinal on Friday.

Wearing a reserve jacket, the Asian Games champion narrowly lost to German Florian Wanner who eventually won the title.

"The case is finished. We don't need it [special inquiry]," IJF president Park Yong-sun told reporters on Sunday as the four-day championships closed with Japan at the top of the medal table with six golds, three each for men and women.

Japan, who came home with only one men's title and three women's at the 2001 championships, had hoped to emulate their record world championship performance in 1999 -- four titles for each sex.

IJF referee director Juan Carlos Barcos said an examination of the jacket found that the slippery texture was due to high humidity which prevailed in Osaka and a detergent used to wash the uniform.

"At any moment, we did not have any doubt about fair play in the case. We are absolutely sure that Mr Akiyama is correct," as he changed the jacket at the request of the jury, Barcos said.

The incident was unheard of in IJF-sanctioned tournaments, Barcos said. But Akiyama was also accused of wearing slippery gear by former world and Olympic champion Kenzo Nakamura when they fought at the world championship trials last April.

Akiyama, a fourth-generation ethnic Korean who obtained Japanese nationality two years ago, reportedly said the jacket had been washed once.

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