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

Day 4: 29 July, 2001

By: Barnaby Chesterman

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

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The final day of the World Judo Championships had everything. There shocks, upsets, brilliant throws and record achievements. All in all it was a fantastic end to an excellent tournament, and the Germans also put on a unique show for the closing ceremony, featuring stilt-walkers wearing huge animal masks and moving with grace and elegance. It was a day to be remembered particularly for one record-breaking fighter and a continent that gained its first ever gold medal.

Women's under 48kg

This was always going to be about the four-time successive reigning champion, Ryoko Tamura of Japan. The diminutive fighter, who finally secured the Olympic title last year after twice finishing second, attracts a massive following whenever she fights and the stadium was packed with Japanese supporters. The darling of the land of the rising sun was nursing a knee injury, though, and was a major doubt for the tournament just a few weeks ago. After just 25 seconds of her first fight she was seen clutching her troublesome knee, but that was to be the only ray of hope for the rest.

Tamura recovered and threw her first two opponents for Ippon, the first with De-ashi-bari and the second with O-guruma. In the next round she faced the young Cuban understudy to Amarilis Savon who is having a baby. Tamura was clearly trying to protect her knee and played a cunning counter-attacking game. She was too experienced for her young opponent, Daniesk Carrion, and was never under any pressure.

Having fought smart up to the semi-final, she came alive against Guiseppina Macri of Italy and took just over a minute to dispatch her for Ippon with O-guruma. That set up a final against Ri Kyong Ok of North Korea who overcame Yu Ying-Ying of South Korea in the other semi-final.

When the 26-year-old Tamura lined up to fight the 20-year-old North Korean, thoughts wandered back to the last time she lined up in a final against a young North Korean. In the 1996 Olympic final, the 21-year-old Tamura was the overwhelming favourite against an unknown 16-year-old called Kye Sun-Hui. Despite being double world champion already Tamura lost to the astonishment of everyone.

This time, though, her opponent was a little older and a little better known. Kyong Ok won the Asian championships in Mongolia earlier this year, so Tamura was aware of her abilities.

The final was cagey affair and both fighters incurred several penalties as they seemed reluctant to take a grip of each other. Tamura put in one strong attack and also worked hard on the ground for a strangle, but neither fighter showed much in attack. The fight went to a decision and hearts were in mouths as the three flags went up.

Two white and one blue: Tamura was champion again. She flopped down onto the mat in relief at having secured a fifth successive title. "This fifth World championship gold means as much to me as my first," she said afterwards. "But now I want the sixth successive title also." Carrion came back through the repechage, beating Sarah Nichilo-Rosso of France en route to win a bronze. She had a tough scrap with Ying-Ying but won a unanimous decision. Macri won the other bronze in another close fight against Anna Zemla of Poland.

Men's under 60kg

In fitting with many of the categories in the tournament this one was full of suprises and upsets. First to fall was the reigning champion, Manolo Poulot of Cuba who struggled to get to grips with Anis Lounifi of Tunisia in the third round.

Lounifi was on fire followed that victory with a defeat of the Asian champion, Mahmud Haji Akhondzade of Iran. It was just one upset after another for the Tunisian and in the semi-finals he came up against the silver-medallist from two years ago, Kazuhiko Tokuno of Japan. Tokuno started the brighter and put three low scores on the board. But Lounifi never gave up and continued to pressure Tokuno. Finally he cracked and went for a risky Ouchi-gari only to be countered for Ippon with Ura-nage.

Lounifi was a surprise finalist and it quickly became apparent that so too would be the other one. The Olympic silver-medallist, Jung Bu Kyung of South Korea, fell at the first hurdle and his conqueror, Yacine Douma of France, progressed no further himself.

The semi-final pitted Cedric Taymans of Belgium against Nestor Khergiani of Georgia. Both have achieved good results before but neither were expected to have come this far. The fight hinged on penalties and with time running out, Khergiani was trailing three to one. He went for broke and was almost pinned with Sangaku-gatame. After a frantic struggle, he escaped but there was little time left and Taymans was in the final.

The final didn't produce much excitement, although both fighters were probably nervous in their first final at this level. Both incurred penalties and there was only one positive score of any note. Lounifi scored Waza-ari with a leg-grab, after which Taymans never looked like turning the fight around. Lounifi held on and won the first ever World championship gold medal by an African fighter, and indeed his country's first medal of any description. The victory was met by scenes of pure jubilation among the Tunisian contingent and Lounifi's coach struggled to hold himself back from running onto the mat. Tokuno gained some consolation for his disappointment by outclassing the twice European champion, Elchin Ismaylov of Azerbaijan, to win bronze. Joining him on the medal rostrum was Britain's John Buchanan. He lost in the first round to Lounifi but went the long way through the repechage to fight for bronze against Khergiani. Two years ago Buchanan came fifth, losing to Natsik Baghirov of Belarus, but this time he went one better and forced a submission from the Georgian with a strangle.

Women's Open

Unusually there were several under 78kg fighters mixed in with the heavyweights in the Open category. One of those was Celine Lebrun, who was still smarting from having failed once again in her own weight category to win a World level gold medal. Twice world bronze-medallist and Olympic silver-medallist last year, Lebrun was desperate to finally win gold.

She was giving away a lot of weight to her opponents but fought tactically to outfox them. She used her speed to attack first on most occasions and force passivity penalties for her opponents. But she also managed to pull out some incredible throws and beat her first two opponents by Ippon.

In the quarter-finals she faced the huge German Katja Gerber and once again it was the same story. She forced a penalty and then scored with two excellent drop Seoi-nage attacks. Gerber had no response and Lebrun moved into a semi-final with Tong Wen of China.

Once again she was dwarfed but the same tactics stood her in good stead. Tong was a tougher opponent, though, and try as she did, Lebrun could not throw her. It went to a decision and Lebrun won unanimously to be the first light-heavyweight fighter to reach a final for a long time.

She faced Karina Bryant of Great Britain who made the most of a favourable draw. She seemed to lack a spark but had too much class for her opponents. She threw the Asian champion from 2000, Mayumi Yamashita of Japan, for Ippon and then needed a Waza-ari to edge past Prescila Marques of Brazil who had started much the brighter and put three low scores on the board.

Bryant faced another light-heavyweight in the semi-final in the shape of Catarina Rodrigues of Portugal. She weighs only 75 kilos and knew she was up against it against the tall Briton. Rodrigues gifted the fight to Bryant, though, by quickly incurring penalties for stepping out the mat area and then dropping. Staring down a precipice, she could not find a way into the fight and was disqualified after another penalty. It appeared to be a dream final with the light-heavyweight Lebrun and Bryant who is widely regarded as one of the more nimble heavyweights. That didn't materialise, however, as both fighters struggled for supremacy. The fight was won by a single penalty, incurred by Bryant for passivity. That was all it took for Lebrun to finally win a world title and she burst into floods of tears the moment the final buzzer sounded.

Tong came back to win a bronze with a beautiful drop Seoi-nage on Marques for Ippon. It was incredible to see such a big woman drop so quickly and neatly and she was a worthy winner, even if her coach was not satisfied. Rodrigues caused a major upset in winning the other bronze medal by throwing the home fighter, Gerber, for Ippon with drop Seoi-nage after just 14 seconds. It was her first medal at a major championship and she could hardly believe it. "I only weigh 75 kilos and tried the open category just for fun. I had hoped for a medal but never believed I could win one," she said.

Men's Open

This category was also speckled with light-heavyweight fighters and again one made the final. Ariel Zeevi, the European champion at under 100kg, had lost in the first round on Thursday. And that was all the motivation he needed to come out and perform in the open.

He struggled gamely against much bigger and heavier opponents and in the first two rounds he won with last ditched Ippons. He threw Rigoberto Trujillo of Cuba with Seoi-nage and then Alexandru Lungu of Romania with Kata-guruma. In the quarter-final he scored Waza-ari with an incredible Koga-style Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi against Kang Eui Kei of South Korea.

In the semi-final he had another bruising encounter against Ramaz Chochishvili of Georgia. Again he fought well tactically to lead by a penalty score but he also added Yuko with Ura-nage. The Georgian had no reply and Zeevi was the second light-heavyweight to qualify for the Open final. His likely opponent was always going to be Alexandre Mikhailine of Russia, the new World over 100kg champion. He easily defeated Mohamed Dabito of Mali and then faced the 'wheeble', Japanese fighter, Yasuyuki Muneta. As wide as he is tall, Muneta is a very difficult man to topple and Mikhailine struggled throughout. In fact, the fighter was evenly poised and heading for a decision when Muneta was harshly penalised.

Mikhailine didn't look back and cruised into the final, thanks in no small portion to a very generous Ippon score in his semi-final against Daniel Hernandes of Brazil. Losing by Keikoku, Mikhailine launched a desperate Maki-komi but lost control and his grip as Hernandes tumbled over him. The referee, possibly unsighted, awarded the Ippon nonetheless, much to the Russian's relief. It was another seemingly dream final between the former light-heavyweight world bronze-medallist and the current European light-heavyweight champion. But this one also failed to live up to expectation, although for different reasons. Zeevi never even got started and was swept off his feet for Ippon with De-ashi-barai after just 25 seconds.

Frank Moeller brought some cheer to the home fans with their third medal of the tournament by winning a bronze. He was the grateful beneficiary of some home refereeing in the repechage final to get past Muntea by a decision but he was an emphatic winner in the fight for a medal. He threw Chochishvili for Yuko and followed straight into an armlock to send the crowd into raptures.

Dennis van der Geest secured the other bronze with a brilliant Uchi-mata against Hernandes. Van der Geest can be a frustrating fighter to watch, combining moments of brilliance with lacklustre displays. But on this occasion it all clicked and he celebrated with a forward flip. That from a man of over 120 kilos was probably even more impressive than his winning throw.

Award ceremony

Korea's Cho In-Chul and China's Hua Yuan won the Ippon trophy awards for ther breathtaking attacking judo throughout the tournament. The trophies are awarded to the fighters who gain the highest percentage of Ippon victories in the fastest amount of time. Cho In-Chul's achievement was particularly impressive as the great Kosei Inoue also won all his fights by Ippon, but the Korean did it in slightly less time. Inoue was not to be outdone, though, and won the Best Judoka award, along with Ryoko Tamura also of Japan. Those were awarded by the Education and Training Commission based on results at this year's World Championship and last year's Olympic Games. Inoue was the only man to win gold at both the Olympic Games and the World championships and held off stiff competition from the new double World champion, Alexandre Mikhailine of Russia to win the award. Tamura was one of only two women to win the Olympics and the World Championships, along with Yuan. But it was Yuan's first world title and Tamura's fifth, so the Japanese fighter took the award for also increasing her record to five consecutive World titles.



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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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