World No. 1 Rishod Sobirov retained his men’s world under-60kg title to deny Japan a clean sweep of the gold medals on the first day of the World Judo Championships at the Palais Omnisport de Bercy on Tuesday.
Sobirov scored a half-point waza-ari eight seconds from the end of the final against Japan’s Hiroaki Hiraoka with a bear-hug leg-sweep counter (kosoto-gake) to win his seventh major tournament in a row.
Hiraoka said afterwards he had been forced into an attack he didn’t want to make by Sobirov’s pressure.
“I didn’t want to make an attack at this time, but his gripping was so strong he forced me to try,” he said.
Azerbaijan’s Ilgar Mushkiyev and former world champion Georgii Zantaraia of Ukraine won the bronze medals.
The real drama came in the semi-final against Kim Won-jin in which Sobirov’s 18-month unbeaten run was almost ended.
The Uzbek took a decisive lead a minute from the end of the contest when Kim was given a penalty, but the South Korean then hit back immediately with an inner-hook (ouchi-gari).
The referee originally awarded the maximum winning ippon score only for the judges’ table to overrule him and downgrade it to a waza-ari.
It still meant Kim was leading, but one second from time Sobirov scored his own waza-ari with a rear throw (ura-nage) to snatch the victory by the earlier penalty.
Japan’s Masashi Ebinuma upset the odds to win the under-66kg title, beating Brazil’s Leandro Cunha in the final.
World No. 8 Ebinuma scored a perfect ippon with a textbook inner-thigh throw (uchi-mata) to beat the man who sits one place above him in the standings.
More importantly for him, though, was the fact that he matched compatriot Junpei Morishita’s exploit from last year in Tokyo, particularly given only one fighter from each country can go to the Olympics.
“This victory was not my goal, the Olympics is my goal and now finally I am level with Morishita,” Ebinuma said. “I was so disappointed last year and since then I’ve been training really hard and that’s why I got this result.”
South Korea’s Cho Jun-ho and Russian world No. 4 Musa Mogushkov took the bronze.
In the women’s competition, Haruna Asami ensured Japan topped the medals table after the first day of competition as she beat compatriot Tomoko Fukumi for the second year in a row in the under-48kg final.
Asami notched the only score of the fight with an inner-leg sweep (ouchi-gari) for the minimum yuko score 30 seconds from the end of the contest.
It means Asami is in pole position to go to the Olympics, but she isn’t counting her chickens.
“I really wanted to win this second world title and now I have achieved that desire,” she said. “I didn’t smile because it’s not my goal, that’s next year in London.”
“I won this tournament, but I don’t think I’m guaranteed the place at the Olympics, the competition between Fukumi and me is very close,” she added.
It was Fukumi’s third world final in a row having won in Rotterdam in 2009.
Young Brazilian star Sarah Menezes and Hungary’s Eva Csernoviczki won the bronze medals.
In the men’s under-66kg division, there were shocks aplenty earlier in the day as world No. 1 Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar of Mongolia and 2010 champion Morishita both bit the dust.
Tsagaanbaatar was narrowly beaten in the last 16 by Cho, while Morishita injured his elbow in the third round as he was trying to resist an armlock by Moldova’s Igor Soroca.