Edition No. 27. Summer, 2001. Today is
2001 World Judo Championships:

Day 1: 26 July, 2001

By: Barnaby Chesterman

Go to: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

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Just as they did two years ago in Birmingham, Japan dominated the opening day of the World Judo Championships in Munich on Thursday. And the star of the Japanese team was the prodigiously gifted Kosei Inoue, who once again stole the headlines. The first day promised much with two current Olympic champions and three current world champions on display. There was also a sizeable crowd, although it did take time to pick up throughout the day. The Germans put on some traditional dancing for the opening ceremony, which was greatly enhanced by the warm atmosphere created by excellent lighting. The acoustics also helped the atmosphere as at times the crowd managed to create enough noise to suggest the Olympic stadium was full.

Women's over 100kg

This category had a particularly strong field with Olympic champion Hua Yuan of China leading the way. Yuan was also runner-up in Birmingham two years ago, so was eager to win her first world title. Yuan is probably the only woman in the heavyweight category who can throw with a standing Ippon-seoi-nage, which is her most potent weapon.

She went through her first two opponents, Carmen Chala of Ecuador and Marie Ellis Veys of Belgium, very quickly, throwing both for Ippon with her favourite technique. She then had a tough battle with Hsiao Hung Lee of Chinese Taipei but threw her for Ippon with O-soto-gari from an initial Ippon-seoi-nage attack. Yuan faced Karina Bryant of Great Britain in the semi-final, in what promised to be her toughest fight yet. Bryant was commanding form having beaten both Mariana Prokofieva of Ukraine and Tsvetlana Bozhilova of Bulgaria by Ippon. Bryant's Tsuri-goshi throw for victory against Bozhilova was particularly impressive. But Yuan demonstrated just why she is the Olympic champion and dominated the gripping from the start. The Chinese fighter caused Bryant many problems pulling her head down and soon scored Yuko with Ouchi-gari. Bryant could not match her energy and Yuan added Waza-ari with Te-guruma, following it into Tate-shiho-gatame for victory.

That set up an all-Asian final against the 20-year-old up-and-coming Japanese star. Midori Shintani fought well to reach the semi-final but few expected her to beat the World Open champion, Daima Beltran of Cuba. Beltran had edged out Sandra Koeppen of Germany on a split decision in the quarter-final and looked the most likely contender for Yuan. Beltran dominated most of the semi-final encounter but crucially Shintani scored Waza-ari with Ouchi-gari mid-way through the bout. Beltran twice scored Yuko and Shintani was penalised Shido, but she held on for a place in the final.

The young Japanese started aggressively and fought well for her grip. But Yuan was on top form and eventually forced an opening, attacking with Ippo-seoi-nage and driving Shintani to the side to score Yuko. Another lightning Ippon-seoi-nage attack gave her another Yuko and Shintani never looked like threatening again.

There was some cheer for the home crowd as Koeppen took a bronze medal with a powerful display to overcome Bryant in just one minute. The pair had battled out a thrilling semi-final in the European Championships in Paris two months ago, but this time Koeppen was dominant. She took Bryant down with Tani-otoshi and then controlled her into an unbreakable hold. Beltran also bounced back from her disappointment to narrowly clinch the other bronze medal with a decision against Veys.

Men's over 100kg

With France's Olympic champion David Douillet now retired, his conquered opponent from the Sydney final, Shinichi Shinohara of Japan, was the overwhelming favourite for this title. He started well enough with two comfortable victories against Nacani Qerawaqa of Fiji and Abdull Tangriev of Uzbekistan, and looked formidable. But Alexandre Mikhailine of Russia had a rude awakening waiting for him in the quarter-final. Mikhailine seemed to be sparked into attack by fear as Shinohara took hold of him, but he caught the reigning double World champion cold and spun underneath him, turning him onto his back for Ippon with Sumi-gaeshi after just 12 seconds of the contest. Everyone in the stadium was stunned, none more so than Shinohara himself, who hasn't tasted defeat by Ippon since another Russian, Tamerlan Tmenov, beat him in the final of the Minsk 'A' tournament three years ago.

That victory boosted the confidence of the European Open champion who then scored a brilliant Ippon against the huge Iranian, Fashandi Miran, in the semi-final. With the scores locked, Mikhailine unleashed a powerful left-handed O-goshi and spun the Iranian onto his back. That set up a final against the giant Chechnyen-turned-Turk, Selim Tataroglu. He pinned the silver-medallist from Birmingham, Indrek Pertelson of Estonia, for Ippon in his semi-final, having stormed through his opening two rounds.

The final was a fairly dull affair, though, as Tataroglu is not the most dynamic of fighters and his sheer size and power forced a cautious approach from Mikhailine. But the young Russian is maturing into one of the most fearsome heavyweight fighters in the world and also has a good tactical head for one with such young shoulders. Mikhailine was only fighting in the heavyweight category because of an injury to Tmenov, but as the European Open champion, and bronze medallist at under 100kg in Birmingham, he is was already one of the favourites.

Just as their bout in the European championships had been decided on penalties, so too was this one. Mikhailine feared Tataroglu's big hip throws, but the Turk was not fast enough to feel he could really threaten. So what manifested was a tactical stalemate as the two traded penalties, until Mikhailine put in a string of swift attacks leaving Tataroglu penalised alone. That was all it took to decided the final and Tataroglu eventually earned Hansoku-make for passivity, giving Mikhailine his first world title. Many more may follow for this talented fighter, at least until Inoue finally steps up to heavyweight. Shinohara proved his class by easily bouncing back to take bronze. In the repechage his opponents were all too aware of his left Uchi-mata attack, but Shinohara switched to O-soyto-gari with devastating effect. Germany's Andreas Toelzer lasted less than 30 seconds and then Pertelson was dispatched with a minute to spare in the fight for a podium finish. The other bronze went to Miran who edged out Georgi Tonkov of Bulgaria to win a rare medal for Iran at this level.

Women's under 78kg

The biggest surprise in this category came during the draw yesterday when it transpired that China had not entered a fighter. Neither Olympic champion Li Tang nor World silver-medallist, Yufeng Yin, were present, so the draw appeared to be a likely shoot out between World champion, Noriko Anno of Japan and Olympic silver-medallist, Celine Lebrun of France. It certainly appeared that way right up to the semi-finals as both progressed authoritatively. Anno eased into the semi-finals with convincing victories over Samby Dashdylam of Mongolia, Claudia Zwiers of the Netherlands and Paulina Monney Akissi of Cote d'Ivoire. The semi-final against So -Yeon Lee of South Korea was a lot tougher, though, and Anno squeezed through courtesy of a single late penalty.

Lebrun had won her first two fights thanks to single penalties against Uta Kuehnen of Germany and Catarina Rodrigues of Portugal. In her semi-final she faced the 21-year-old Cuban, Yurisel Laborde, who was a surprise winner against Britain's Michelle Rogers in the first round. Lebrun and Laborde exchanged penalties and the scores remained level until the final few seconds. Lebrun tried to win it and Laborde countered her for Yuko. With only a few seconds left, Lebrun still went for broke and with six seconds remaining it almost paid off. She couldn't quite get enough rotation from a Tsuri-goshi attack, though, and once again her dream of world gold was to fade.

Laborde's previous best result was a bronze at the Junior World championships three years ago and a final against the world champion proved one step too far. Laborde gave a good account of herself, but Anno's experience told and she attacked at just the right time towards the end of the bout to win by a single penalty score.

Lebrun bounced back emphatically and easily disposed of Zwiers for bronze, pinning her with Yoko-shiho-gatame. The other beaten semi-finalist, Lee, also prevailed in her bronze fight, narrowly beating Kuehnen on a split judges decision. The decisive flag even took a split second longer to be raised, pre-empting howls of derision from the partisan home crowd.

Men's under 100kg

As ever, this was always going to be about Japan's Kosei Inoue. On this occasion, however, questions had been posed about his invincibility after a defeat at the hands of Anatol Kovacs of Hungary in the Millennium Cup in March. At just 23 years of age, Inoue was already the reigning World and Olympic champion. But despite his undoubted aura, he was convincingly beaten by his nemesis, Kovacs, earlier this year in Budapest and had also lost in their only previous meeting in 1999.

Inoue was given several unlikely tests on his way through the draw and was asked many questions, but he responded brilliantly. Elco van der Geest was like a rabbit cayght in headlights and lasted 37 seconds before a brilliant Uchi-mata planted him firmly on his back. But Martin Padar of Estonia caused Inoue all sorts of problems by continually frustrating his preferred grip. For four minutes Inoue toiled to get his favoured grip to no avail and then suddenly he switched his line of attack and spun under Padar to score Yuko with Seoi-nage. Having defended against Uchi-mata so effectively, Padar suddenly had a new problem to contend with and he cracked. Just a few seconds later he was emphatically despatched for Ippon with Uchi-mata.

Mario Sabino of Brazil was next up and he too seemed to have sussed out Inoue's line of attack. Sabino kept his right sleeve well back and forced his left arm inside Inoue's right. This kept the genial Japanese star at bay for three and a half minutes until in a flash, he too felt the full force of Inoue's Uchi-mata. Inoue seemed to learn his lesson, and in the quarter-final against Askhat Zhitkeyev of Kazakhstan, the conqueror of former champion, Pavel Nastula of Poland, he never gave his opponent a chance to try to frustrate him. Inoue faked an Ouchi-gari attack and then threw the Kazakh for Ippon with O-soto-maki-komi after just 40 seconds. Then he was faced with Ghislain Lemaire of France in the semi-final, and once again his opponent had been working on a defence to his Uchi-mata.

Inoue was penalised twice, early on, and Lemaire appeared to have the measure of his opponent for three and a half minutes. Inoue seemed to have no answers to Lemaire's gripping but suddenly, driven possibly by desperation, Inoue scored Yuko with a scrappy Tani-otoshi style counter. In front at last, Inoue relaxed and Lemaire tightened up, and the end was nigh. Just a few seconds later, Inoue dived underneath the Frenchman and scored Ippon with a drop Ippon-seoi-nage.

Inoue had by far the kindest side of the draw, whereas the other half was littered with classic match-ups. Olympic silver-medallist, Nicolas Gill of Canada, faced the European champion, Ariel Zeevi of Israel in the second round. Gill surprisingly dominated and having forced three penalties to Zeevi, he finished the bout with Waza-ari form Tai-otoshi. Gill's reward was a contest against the dangerous Uzbek, Armen Bagdasarov. Gill was again on fire and threw him for Ippon with Uchi-mata-sukeshi. His third tough battle came against Iveri Jikurauli of Georgia but this time he threw it away. Leading throughout, he became defensive towards the end and a penalty 10 seconds from time cost him a semi-final berth.

Jikurauli faced Kovacs in the semi-final, after the Hungary had excellent victories against Sung-ho Jang of South Korea, runner-up two years ago, and last year's European champion and Olympic bronze-medallist, Jouri Stepkine of Russia. It was a largely scrappy fight, but Kovacs' repeated Sumi-gaeshi attempts served him well enough to wrack up several telling Koka scores. That proved enough to set up a dream final between the current golden boy and his predecessor.

Kovacs himself was something of a prodigy in 1992 when he swept to the Olympic title as a 20-year-old and then claimed the world title a year later. But Kovacs had only faltered to deceive since then, until the Millennium Cup four months ago.

Inoue had never beaten Kovacs, but he made no mistake this time, overcoming a nervous start to throw the Hungarian for a perfect score (ippon) just over two minutes into the contest. Kovacs had thrown Inoue for Ippon with Uchi-mata-maki-komi in Budapest and clearly though he could do it again as he launched into that technique with his first attack. Inoue defended it much better this time but Kovacs still scored Yuko. He then went for Sumi-gaeshi twice, without success, before Inoue had even mounted a single attack. But the new prodigy had done his homework. Some will also point out that he was returning from injury when Kovacs beat him in Budapest, whereas this time he was in much better shape. Inoue sent Kovacs sprawling to the canvas with a perfectly-timed Ouchi-gari, and the nemesis was beaten.

It was the icing on the cake for the team from the land of the rising sun, which already had gold, silver and bronze medals from the other three weight categories. It was a good day all round for Asia in fact and the two bronze medals in the under 100kg also went to Asia. Jang squeezed past Lemaire by a penalty score and Zhitkeyev scored a late Ippon against Jikurauli with a counter technique, having trailed throughout the bout.

Once again, though, the Japanese are looking very strong and with four medals out of four on the first day, it looks like they will once again top the medals table come the end of the weekend.



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World Championships 2001



Ryoko Tamura (JPN)

KYE, Sun-Hui (PRK)

LUPETEY, Yurisleidis (CUB)


UENO, Masae (JPN)


Noriko Anno (JPN)


LEBRUN, Celine (FRA)





CHO, In-Chul (KOR)


Kosei Inoue (JPN)

MIKHAYLIN, Alexandre (RUS)

MIKHAYLIN, Alexandre (RUS)

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