World Judo Championships:
4: 29 July, 2001
By: Barnaby Chesterman
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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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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)