Japan's world champion Sone Akira became the first judoka to secure their place at next year's Tokyo Olympic Games by topping the podium on the final day of the International Judo Federation (IJF) Osaka Grand Slam.
Akira had the opportunity to qualify for the women’s -78 kg event following the All Japan Judo Federation High Performance Committee confirming that all reigning world champions who claimed gold in Osaka would represent the host nation next year.
Having already secured individual and mixed team world titles in Tokyo earlier this year, the 19-year-old comfortably progressed through the rounds at Maruzen Intec Arena Osaka, to earn a meeting with the London 2012 Olympic champion Idalys Ortiz of Cuba and a rematch of the World Championship final.
And Akira earned victory with a golden score against the three-time Olympic medallist, the result guaranteeing her of competing at a home Games next year. Japan’s Sarah Asahina claimed the first bronze medal in the division by beating her team-mate Wakaba Tomita, while Brazil’s Beatriz Souza overcame France’s Julia Tolofua in the other bronze medal decider.
Akira was the sole Japanese judoka to seal their Olympic berth but there were several other key head-to-head contests which may impact on the host nation’s qualification process.
Mami Umeki won her duel with 2018 world champion Shori Hamada in the women’s -78kg event. Umeki, the 2015 world champion, secured a victory by ippon in the all-Japanese gold medal contest. Another all-Japanese medal match saw Mao Izumi beat Rinoko Wada to win the bronze medal, while France’s Fanny Estelle Posvite overcame her compatriot Audrey Tcheumeo to take the final podium place.
A third and final Japanese gold medal of the day was earned by Ryunosuke Haga in the men’s -100kg competition. The Rio 2016 bronze medallist continued his recovery from injury by beating Azerbaijan’s Elmar Gasimov in the final with a waza-ari score. Bronze medals were claimed by Japan’s Kentaro Iida and Aaron Wolf, who overcame Uzbekistan’s Mukhammadkarim Khurramov and Russia’s Arman Adamian.
Georgia’s Beka Gviniashvili won the men’s -90kg title by achieving an ippon in a golden score period against Uzbekistan’s Davlat Bobonov. Japan’s Shoichiro Mukai beat his compatriot Kenta Nagasawa in the first bronze medal match, with the second seeing South Korea’s Donghan Gwak triumph against Mammadali Mehdiyev of Azerbaijan
Russia’s Inal Tasoev boosted his hopes of competing at Tokyo 2020 by winning the men’s -100kg heavyweight title. The 21-year-old beat Japan’s Hyoga Ota with a waza-ari score, whilst Japan’s Kokoro Kaguera and Uzbekistan’s Alisher Yushpov won the bronze medals, courtesy of wins over Yusuke Kumashiro and Daigo Kagawa of Japan.
Japanese judokas also won all four events on a very productive second day of competition in Osaka.
Masako Doi successfully defended her women’s -63 kg title in a competition once again dominated by Japanese athletes. Doi boosted her Tokyo 2020 prospects by holding down compatriot Nana Kota for an ippon score. The podium was completed by Nami Nabekura and Miku Tashiro, with the Japanese competitors overcoming Cuba’s Maylin Del Toro Carvajal and South Korea’s Han Hee-Ju.
A close women’s -70kg final saw Yoko Ono emerge as the winner of the competition. Ono appeared to have beaten The Netherlands’ Kim Polling with a waza-ari score, but a video review saw the decision reversed by officials.
With the deadline being unable to be broken, it meant a golden score period was required to separate the two, with Ono eventually securing a match-winning ippon. Chizuru Arai added to Japan’s medal collection by beating Venezuela’s Elvismar Rodriguez in the first bronze-medal match, before Giovanna Scoccimarro defeated fellow German Miriam Butkereit.
Masashi Ebinuma emerged as the winner of an all-Japanese men’s -73kg final against Soichi Hashimoto, with the clash seeing two former world champions go head-to-head. A slip from Hashimoto would prove crucial, with Ebinuma able to hold his compatriot to secure an ippon.
Mongolia’s Odbayar Ganbaatar secured the first bronze medal in the division by overcoming Japan’s Kenshi Harada. Tajikistan’s Somon Makhmadbekov also overcame Japanese opposition in his bronze-medal match, as he beat Arata Tatsukawa.
Japan’s Takanori Nagase boosted his prospects of representing the host nation in the men’s -81kg event at Tokyo 2020.Nagase secured a key victory over team mate Sotaro Fujiwara as the battle for Japan’s Olympic place continued.
Russia’s Turpal Tepkaev and the Netherlands’ Frank De Wit completed the podium courtesy of winning their bronze-medal bouts against Uzbekistan’s Kamoliddin Rasulov and Japan’s Hikaru Tomokiyo.
At the conclusion of the three days of competition in Osaka, the host nation’s dominance was reflected as clear leaders on the medal count. The Japanese judoka secured 11 gold medals, eight silver and 15 bronze, with Russia and France the next best with only one gold and one bronze apiece.