World Judo Championships:
3: 28 July, 2001
By: Barnaby Chesterman
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The reigning world champion, Driulis Gonzalez of Cuba was pregnant
so could not defend her title in Munich. But her understudy, the 20-year-old
World Junior champion, Yourisledes Lupety, more than made up for the
great champion's absence with an energetic performance, full of spirit
Lupety took little time to announce herself on the senior ranks and
quickly dispatched her first two opponents within the time limit.
Her first real test came in the quarter-final against Kyung Soon Min
of South Korea. She struggled to find a big throw and in the end was
happy to settle for a victory by Yuko. That set up a semi-final meeting
with the Olympic champion, Isabel Fernandez of Spain.
The rugged Spaniard qualified easily for the last four but the young
Cuban was not fazed by either her reputation or aggression. Fernandez's
style can at best be described as ugly, while the Cuban women are
usually not far behind. But Lupety's youthful zest brings a spark
to the Cuban style and she deservedly won a unanimous decision after
a scoreless encounter. Fernandez typically did not put in a worthwhile
attack and concentrated on trying to make her opponent look passive.
But Lupety's attacks carried more punch and she moved into the final.
Kie Kusakabe of Japan, a bronze medallist from Sydney, had looked
the likely finalist scoring two good Ippon victories with O-soto-gari.
But she came unstuck in the semi-final against Deborah Gravenstijn
of the Netherlands. Kusakabe struggled to cope with Gravenstijn's
strong gripping and after a minute and a half was thrown for Ippon
with a drop Seoi-nage.
Gravenstijn seemed over the moon to be in the final, as did the Cuban
and they brought a refreshing enthusiasm to the under 57kg final which
has been dominated by Fernandez and Gonzalez in recent years. Gravenstijn
was totally outfought on thios occasion as Lupety's greater class
showed. She won it with a drop Seoi-nage for Waza-ari, but at the
end both fighters seemed equally delighted. Lupety, shaded the celebrations,
though, bounding off the mat into the arms of coach Ronaldo Veitia
Valdivie. And in a show of national pride, she dedicated her victory
to her country.
Kusakabe took some time to recover from her defeat and started sluggishly
in the bronze medal bout against China's Yuhua Xu. She was twice caught
for low scores before she managed to rediscover her form. But once
she did, the fight was a mere formality. Kusakabe scored Waza-ari
with O-soto-gari and almost pinned Xu, but the Chinese escaped. Her
reprieve didn't last long, however, and she was quickly thrown for
Ippon with another O-soto-gari. Kusakabe could not hold back tears
afterwards, although they were not tears of joy. "I am deeply disappointed
that I missed the opportunity to become World champion," she said
through the tears. "I'm really very, very disappointed."
Fernandez won the other bronze medal in a travesty of justice against
Cinzia Cavazutti of Italy. The Spaniard's rugged pulling and dragging
tactics somehow convinced two referees that she deserved the decision
over Cavazutti's classical attacks. It was particularly hard luck
on the Italian who was robbed of an Olympic bronze last year by another
contentious decision against Maria Pekli. Ths time however, the referees
weren't swayed by the home crowd. Quite the opposite, in fact, as
the crowd made its displeasure very obvious after the fight by booing
the referees as they left the mat.
Men's under 73kg
With the World champion, Jimmy Pedro of the USA now retired and Olympic
champion Guisepe Maddaloni of Italy absent, this was a very open category.
Several medal contenders fell early, such as World bronze-medallist,
Sebastian Perreira of Brazil and the two Olympic bronze-medallists.
That opened the way for an impressive return to form for Vitali Makarov
of Russia. He was a huge disappointment in the Olympic Games last
year after winning silver in the World championships two years ago.
But his left-sided Uchi-mata was working effectively and he swept
into a quarter-final meeting with the dynamic Peruvian, German Velazco.
He had already thrilled the crowd with a couple of big Ippon scores,
including a full height Kata-guruma against Richard Leon of Venezuela
after only 18 seconds.
Velazco started brightly and the Russian did well to survive a couple
of huge early attacks. But Makarov weathered the storm, and then used
all his experience to dump the Peruvian for Ippon half way through
the scheduled five-minute contest.
That set up a semi-final against the impressive Polish fighter, Kryzsztof
Wilkomirski. Makarov was always in control, though, and had the Pole
on the defensive throughout. Makarov scored Waza-ari with a lovely
Uki-goshi throw and then moved into the final when Wilkomirski picked
up Keikoku for passivity. On the other side of the draw, the new Japanese
fighter was causing quite a stir. Yusuke Kanamaru, a 21-year-old who
won silver at the East Asian Games, was flattening opponents all over
the place with his huge Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi throws. In the semi-final
against Sung Ho Min of South Korea, he took just 33 seconds to dump
him for Waza-ari twice with the same technique and move into the World
championship final at his first attempt.
It was a match-up between the experienced Makarov and the exuberant
Kanamaru, and it left the crowd breathless. The two held nothing back
in search of a winning throw and risked everything for victory. Kanamaru
seemed to tire first and took a long time to peel himself off the
mat after each clinch that ended up on the ground. Makarov was not
far behind but could afford to sit back after scoring Yuko twice without
reply. Kanamaru was fearless, though, and continued to go for the
big Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi attacks. Eventually it cost him as he simply
ran out of energy and Makarov threw him for Ippon with his favoured
The two fighters received a standing ovation as they left the mat
and both looked pleased with their results. Askhat Shakharov of Kazakstan
was another who was delighted after fighting through the repechage
to win bronze. He threw Min for Ippon after a minute and a half and
then danced around the mat before leaping into his coaches arms, before
he had even bowed off. "This feels simply great," he said. "I never
expected to win bronze and I'm speechless. I will celebrate this a
lot." Wilkomirski completed the set of happy fighters by winning the
other bronze medal against Andrey Shturbabin of Uzbekistan.
Women's under 52kg
Legna Verdecia, the Olympic champion from last year was the favourite
to win the title as the reigning champion Noriko Narasaki hasn't been
seen fighting since her defeat in the Olympic final last year. The
Cuban was unconvincing, though, as she stuttered into the quarter-finals.
There she faced an inspired Rafaella Imbriani of Germany and a partisan
home crowd. Verdecia was the better fighter throughout but constant
whistling from the crowd helped the referees to penalise the Cuban
for dropping. Crucially she received a third penalty with seconds
remaining to hand the fight to the German, although Verdecia had good
reason to feel a little aggrieved by the crowd's role in the contest.
Imbriani was fortunate again in the semi-final where she was often
on the back foot but benefited form another penalty victory against
Salima Sdouakri of Algeria who was bidding to win her country's first
World Championship medal and the first by any African woman. It wasn't
to be, though, and the German moved into the final.
There she faced the class competitor in the top half of the draw,
Sun-Hui Kye of North Korea. It is five years since an unknown 16-year-old
shocked Ryoko Tamura and the Judo world in the Olympic final in Atlanta,
but since that glorious day, Kye had not managed to win another world
or Olympic title. She stepped up to under 52kg but was always a minor
This time, though, she was looking very strong and had no difficulties
in moving past some of the favourites into the semi-final. Georgina
Singleton of Great Britain, Ioana Dinea of Romania and Marie-Claire
Restoux of France were all beaten convincingly before the Korean faced
the new Japanese fighter, Yuki Yokosawa. She put up a better fight
but never looked like beating Kye who scored Yuko twice to advance
into the final.
Kye was not going to be intimidated by the crowd and try as they did,
they could not lift Imbriani to victory. Kye's strong high left-hand
grip caused the German many problems as it had her other opponents
throughout the day. Kye scored Waza-ari with a left Uchi-mata and
that was enough to finally ad the world title to her Olympic gold.
Imbriani was delighted with her silver medal, though, and paid tribute
to the crowd for its support.
Soukari just missed out on the bronze when poor refereeing cost her
against Yuxiang Liu of China. The Algerian was much the more attacking
throughout but lost by Koka. Liu managed to escape punishment for
a defensive display and the unlucky Souakri missed out on making history.
Verdecia was an unpopular winner of the other bronze as she won a
unanimous decision against Yokosawa. The crowd was particularly unhappy
at the outcome, which was important for another reason. Up until then
both the Cuban and Japanese women's teams had perfect medal records,
winning a medal in every weight category. Bt one of them would have
to lose that record and it was Japan.
Men's under 66kg
The biggest shock of the day came in the first contest as the reigning
world champion, Larbi Benboudaoud of France was spectacularly thrown
for Ippon by Aidiyn Smagulov of Kyrgyzstan. Benboudaoud looked in
control of the fight although his smaller opponent never seemed worried
by the Frenchman's awkward gripping. Then out of the blue he spun
underneath Benboudaoud and turned him onto his back with Kata-guruma.
Smagulov, who won Olympic bronze at under 60kg last year, then suffered
a bad defeat against Juan Jacinto of Dominican Repubic as the surprises
The Olympic champion, Huseyin Ozkan of Turkey was another casualty,
beaten narrowly by Yordanis Arencibia of Cuba. Arencibia was far from
his spectacular best, but fought sensibly to make the semi-final,
against Musa Nastuyev of Ukraine who had knocked out the former world
champion, Yukimasa Nakamura of Japan. Arencibia was looking the most
likely winner, but he was caught cold by Nastuyev after just 16 seconds
and thrown brilliantly for Ippon with Ashi-guruma.
On the other side Jacinto came within four seconds of a place in the
quarter-finals but then seemed to stumble over a desperate last attack
from Arashi Miresmaeli of Iran, to lose agonisingly by Ippon. That
was a huge let off for the Iranian who made the most of it to win
through to the final with an excellent semi-final victory over Islam
Matsiev of Russia. Miresmaeli, just 20-years-old, kissed the tatame
after his victory as he was guaranteed Iran's best ever result.
The final was fairly unspectacular compared to the fireworks in the
under 73kg final, but Miresmaeli lit up the stadium half way through
with a brilliant Ippon. He picked up his opponent with a huge Te-guruma
to smash him into the mat and take the gold. Miresmaeli has come on
a long way since his fifth place at the Olympics last year and also
won the Asian championship earlier in the year in Mongolia.
Arencibia recovered to edge out another Algerian bidding to be his
country's first world medallist in the bronze medal fight. It was
level until the final minute when the Cuban score a couple of time
decisive Yukos. It was Cuba's first medal in the men's categories
and Arencibia emulated his performance of two years ago. He burst
into tears at the end but insisted, "No-one should be mislead by my
tears. I'm not crying because I am disappointed, but for joy."
Korea's Hyung Ju Kim took the other bronze medal with a unanimous
decision against Matsiev. It was far from an inspiring battle, but
the referees at least got the outcome right this time.
Ryoko Tamura (JPN)
KYE, Sun-Hui (PRK)
LUPETEY, Yurisleidis (CUB)
VANDECAVEYE, Gella (BEL)
UENO, Masae (JPN)
Noriko Anno (JPN)
YUAN, Hua (CHN)
LEBRUN, Celine (FRA)
LOUNIFI, Anis (TUN)
MIRESMAEILI, Arash (IRI)
MAKAROV, Vitali (RUS)
CHO, In-Chul (KOR)
DEMONTFAUCON, Frederic (FRA)
Kosei Inoue (JPN)
MIKHAYLIN, Alexandre (RUS)
MIKHAYLIN, Alexandre (RUS)