Eight gold medals were secured across the three days of action to underline their dominance at the ISS Dome which saw 659 judoka – 392 men and 267 women – compete in the German city.
The Japanese contingent signalled their intent on the opening day as they earned three of the five gold medals on offer.
Reigning world champion Uta Abe achieved ippon scores in her first four competitions to progress to the women’s -52kg final, where she faced France’s Amandine Buchard. A perfect competition for Abe concluded with another ippon score as the pre-event favourite lived up to expectations by topping the podium.
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Three-time world champion Naohisa Takato celebrated victory in the men’s -60kg competition. The Japanese judoka won all five of his bouts by ippon, including the gold medal bout against Chinese Taipei’s Yang Yung Wei.
Hifumi Abe sealed a hat-trick of Japanese gold medals, as the two-time world champion won the men’s -66kg title. Abe took the lead in the gold medal bout with a waza-ari score against Georgia’s Vazha Margvelashvili, before sealing victory by earning a match winning ippon.
Japan were however denied a fourth title when Funa Tonaki suffered a surprise defeat in the women’s -48kg final. France’s Shirine Boukli, a silver medallist at the Tel Aviv Grand Prix, earned triumphed in the final with a waza-ari score.
Jessica Klimkait earned the second Grand Slam title of her career, as the Canadian won the women’s -57kg title. Klimkait achieved an ippon after two minutes of the final against France’s Sarah Leonie Cysique to add to her triumph at last year’s Osaka Grand Slam.
The Japanese medal charge continued into the second day with a further three gold medals secured. Four-time world medallist Miku Tashiro kept her unbeaten run against Olympic champion Tina Trstenjak of Slovenia intact by taking the gold medal in the women’s -63kg final. World number two Trstenjak trailed world number three Tashiro by a waza-ari score from a o-uchi-gari and the latter offered a clinical finish on the ground with osaekomi. It means the Japanese judoka has now won all 10 of their meetings.
Former world champion Chizuru Arai claimed her seventh Grand Slam title defeating Gabriella Willems of Belgium in the final of the women’s -70kg category. Despite an inspired display from the Belgian, Arai found a route past the gutsy first-time Grand Slam finalist after one minute of golden score, catching Willems off guard with te-waza for a waza-ari score.
The men’s -73kg was the most anticipated category on the second day and it did not disappoint as Olympic and world champion Shohei Ono defeated former world champion AN Changrim An of Korea to win gold. Ono clinched his fifth Grand Slam title as the 2019 world champion beat the 2018 world champion in a closely-contested final between two of the biggest stars in the sport. Ono successfully found a way through with his uchi-mata as An slipped to his sixth defeat against his arch-rival in as many contests. For Ono it improved his winning-streak to 35 consecutive contests ahead of his Olympic title defence this summer in Tokyo.
Georgia’s Tato Grigalashvili produced a commanding victory as the world number 18 toyed with the Olympic champion Khasan Khalmurzaev on his way to gold in the -81kg division. The 20-year-old one-time Grand Prix gold medallist was unfazed by the calibre of his opposition as the gold backpatch of the Russian only served to highlight just how impressive Grigalashvili was. A ura-nage by the Georgian earned a waza-ari score and there was no way back for Khalmurzaev who was comfortably contained for the entire contest.
The third and final day of action in Düsseldorf saw Uzbekistan celebrate double gold in the face of Japan again collecting golds in the women’s heavyweight divisions.
The first gold for Uzbekistan came in the men’s -90kg category as Davlat Bobonov needed just 59 seconds to defeat Quedjau Nhabali of Ukraine to win his first Grand Slam title. Bobonov, who is one of the leading projects under the leadership of the legendary Ilias Iliadis, emulated the exploits of his new head coach by delivering with one of the best performances of the weekend. The world number 37 improved on his silver from Osaka by countering Nhabali with an uchi-mata-sukashi and then picked up his Ukrainian for a second and decisive waza-ari score.
Mukhammadkarim Khurramov doubled his country’s golden medal haul with victory over Olympic silver medallist Elmar Gasimov of Azerbaijan in the men’s -100kg final. First-time Grand Slam finalist Khurramov took the final to veteran Gasimov who turned out of several attacks from the Uzbek who pushed the pace until the Azeri was given his third shido for passivity.
Former world champion Guram Tushisvili of Georgia took just 46 seconds to secure a successful return to IJF World Judo Tour duty, beating Germany’s Johannes Frey in the men’s +100kg heavyweight final. Tushisvili, who was making his first appearance on the circuit since September, was a class above the field throughout the day winning all five of his contests by ippon. Frey was sent over for the maximum score from a sode-tsurikomi-goshi in the opening minute as the Georgian struck for the second Grand Slam gold medal of his career.
In the women’s -78kg final, former world champion Shori Hamada of Japan won the meeting of former world champions dominating double Olympic bronze medallist Mayra Aguiar of Brazil to win her second Grand Slam gold medal. Hamada extended her winning record against the Brazilian to 3-0 by pinning down Aguiar for 20 seconds with a yoko-shiho-gatame. The Japanese star secured osaekomi twice but Aguiar slipped out on both occasions only for the fascinating ne-waza exchange to continue as Hamada settled into a more powerful position from which the Brazilian could not escape.
Japan’s second gold of the day came in the women’s +78kg final as double world champion Sarah Asahina earned her sixth Grand Slam title with a professional display against world number four Iryna Kindzerska of Azerbaijan. After missing out on selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which went in favour of teenager Akira Sone, Asahina returned to the competition circuit for the first time and outworked Kindzerska who received three penalties and was disqualified.
Even with that gold medal, Japan were clear leaders of the medal table at the conclusion of the weekend’s action receiving eight golds in total along with one silver and one bronze. Georgia came in second with two golds and one silver and one bronze. Sunday’s double golds for Uzbekistan saw them secure third, from France in fourth with one gold, two silver and two bronze.
The next IJF event is the Rabat Grand Prix in Morocco over the weekend of Friday 6, Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 March.
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