Edition No. 29. Winter, 2001.
 
Tournoi de Paris - Day 1
Paris, France
9-10 February 2002


By: Barnaby Chesterman
Women's competition

Frederique Jossinet of France provided the home fans with some welcome cheer in the last final of the day by scrapping her way to the under 48kg title. It had looked likely to be a frustrating day for the hosts after already losing two finals, including the live televised broadcast of the men's under 73kg final. But Jossinet, the current European champion - also won on home soil - saved the day with a commanding victory against Giuseppina Macri.

The under 48kg category was a small field with few real challengers. The competition hinged on two early bouts, with Jossinet ousting Kayo Kitada of Japan and Macri squeezing past Danieska Carrion of Cuba, Carrion was a surprise inclusion at under 48kg, with Amarilis Savon stepping up to under 52kg.

Macri had made short work of Andrea Berti of Brazil in her semi-final, while Jossinet benefited from a dubious ippon award against Ana Hormigo in her semi-final. The final was a close run affair but Jossinet edged it with two yuko scores to a koka. Kita and Carrion stormed back through the repechage to take expected bronze medals. The under 52kg category looked similarly weak, with none of the medallists from either the Olympics or last year's World championships, and produced a surprise final pairing. Annabelle Euranie, a 19-year-old prodigy, proved to be the best of the home fighters by beating the Japanese fighter, Yuki Yokosawa, on her way to the final. There she met the combative Algerian, Salima Souakri, who fought robustly to put out Savon in the quarter-finals.

It was a real scrap in the final and hinged on a single low score. Souakri registered with uchi-mata for yuko and then held on to take a rare title for Africa. The two fighters showed great spirit at the end, holding up each other's arm to salute the crowd. Savon and Yokosawa added further bronze medals to the Cuban and Japanese collections.

In complete contrast to the previous two categories, the under 57kg was loaded with all the big names - Olympic champion, Isabel Fernandez of Spain; World champion, Yurisleidis Lupety of Cuba; reigning Tournoi champion, Kie Kusakabe of Japan; and World silver-medallist, Deborah Gravenstijn of the Netherlands. The rest of the field was pretty impressive too, with most of the top Europeans fighting.

Gravenstijn was the first to fall, beaten by Kusakabe in the second round. The Japanese went on to make the semi-final and faced Fernandez. The Spaniard had won a contentious decision at the Olympics but this time Kusakabe made no mistake. She dominated the grip from the start and then finished off Fernandez in under two minutes with tai-otoshi for ippon.

Lupety put out the former European champion, Barbara Harel of France and then faced Cinzia Cavazzuti of Italy in the semi-final. Cavazzuti should be an Olympic medallist, but was robbed in Sydney when referees allowed the home crowd to influence their decision in her bronze medal fight against the Australian fighter. But here Cavazzuti was beaten fair and square. Lupety scored twice with drop sode-tsuri-komi-goshi techniques and that was enough to set up a final with Kusakabe.

This was always likely to be a close contest and was a fascinating contest until the referee ruined it. The two were inseparable until Lupety caught Kusakabe with a drop seoi-nage. Lupety had little control and Kusakabe came off the wrong side before landing on her side and then rolling onto her back. The technique was worth a small score, but incredibly the referee awarded ippon. Kusakabe was left to rue her wretched luck with hapless referees once again.

Gravenstijn was beaten in the repechage by Pernilla Andersson of Sweden, a silver medallist at the European championships two years ago. Andersson faced Cavazzuti for bronze but could not get into the fight and was always trailing by a score early on. Cavazzuti added a couple more scores and never looked in danger of losing. The other bronze went to Austria's Sabrina Filzmoser who scored yuko with ouchi-gari to edge ahead of Fernandez.

Men's competition

Although lacking both the World and Olympic champions, the under 60kg was still a very strong category. But some of the favourites fell early on to blow the category wide open. Eric Despezelle of France defeated the deposed World champion, Manolo Ramos Poulot of Cuba, but was then beaten himself by Min-Ho Choi of South Korea. Choi was in fine form and reached the final by throwing Ruben Houkes of the Netherlands for ippon with ouchi-gari.

The other finalist was something of a surprise, though. Joao Derly of Brazil made the most of a fairly kind draw to progress to the semi-final against Masato Uchishiba of Japan. Uchishiba may not be the first choice Japanese fighter but whoever the Japanese field at under 60kg always oozes quality and Uchishiba was no different. But Derly upset the odds and turned him over for ippon to set up a final showdown with Choi.

This must have been one of the shortest finals in the history of the Tournoi and was a great let-down. Choi attacked with nothing more than a push but Derly was caught off balance and collapsed onto his back. The referee awarded ippon and in eight seconds the final was over.

Uchishiba recovered to take the bronze with a dominant performance against Nestor Khergiani of Georgia, culminating in a juji-gatame finish for ippon. Houkes also overcame his semi-final disappointment to battle past Sven Boonen of Belgium to take his place on the podium.

The under 66kg category looked a little bare with none of the finalists from either the Olympics in 2000 or the Worlds last year. Larbi Benboudaoud of France had stepped up to under 73kg while the others were just missing. There was also a new Japanese face in Michihiro Omigawa but he lost in his first fight against France's Stephane Biez.

The one bright star in the field was the electric young Cuban, Yordanis Arencibia, a former champion here and twice World bronze-medallist. Arencibia stormed into the semi-final where he took just 10 seconds to dispose of Christophe Besnard of France. Arencibia dropped underneath him to score ippon with seoi-nage.

In the final, Arencibia met Won-Hee Lee of South Korea who had eliminated the double European under 60kg champion, Elchin Ismaylov of Azerbaijan. Although the Cuban was not at his explosive best he still seemed to control the fight won thanks to a penalty and koka scored with another drop seoi-nage. Besnard surprisingly beat Ismaylov to claim bronze, although the little Azerbaijani probably needs more time to adapt to his new weight category. Konstantin Zaretskii won the other bronze, narrowly beating Amar Meridja of Algeria.

The men's under 73kg final was screened live on terrestrial French TV but unfortunately for the hosts, Christophe Massina could not deliver the gold to an expectant audience. Koen Sleeckx of Belgium, who had been in excellent form all day, countered the Frenchman for yuko and then armlocked him while Massina was looking around to see who got the score. It was a fairly farcical way to make your debut on live TV. Sleeckx's juji-gatame had also disposed of a strong Korean, Yong-Shin Choi, in the semi-final and he was dominant all day, beating the European champion, Gennadiy Bilodid of Ukraine in the quarter-final.

Massina overshadowed Benboudaoud for the French as the former World under 66kg champion was knocked out in the first round by Nourredine Yagoubi of Algeria. Massina recorded some good victories on the way to the semi-final where he met Yusuke Kanamru, the insatiable attacking Japanese fighter. Kanamaru seemed to dominate throughout but could not find a breakthrough. He was punished late on when Massina recorded two small scores to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Kanamaru was then robbed of bronze when penalised for passivity in golden score time against Ferid Kheder, the twice champion for France who now fights for Tunisia. Kheder should have been penalised for dropping about 30 times before Kanamaru received his penalty, which was also unjust since he was attacking. Illya Chymchyuri of Ukraine just edged out Choi for the other bronze by yuko to koka.

With two Olympic champions fighting at this weight, the Japanese unveiled another great under 81kg talent. Yoshihiro Akiyama did not disappoint either and stormed through to the semi-finals, beating Portugal's Nuno Delgado on the way. There he faced Robert Krawczyk of Poland and completely dominated the bout. From a quick yuko with tomo-nage at the beginning of the fight to his second waza-ari with uchi-mata to secure victory, Akiyama was masterful. In a good day for the Korean team, Dong-Jin Ahn made his way to the semi-final to face Cuba's Gabrial Artraga Risquet. The Cuban had done well to get this far but Ahn was too strong for him and put two small scores on the board before throwing him for ippon.

The final was always going to be a tight affair and in truth neither fighter looked like scoring. It was settled on penalties with Ahn registering two to hand victory to Akiyama. Delgado easily beat Artraga Risquet with a counter to uchi-mata for ippon to win bronze, while France's Antoniy Rodriguez threw Krawczyk for ippon to earn the last podium position.

BC

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