Edition No. 36. Winter, 2003. Today is

Osaka Worlds 2003
Osaka, Japan: September 11-14, 2003

By Barnaby Chesterman
It was almost a case of déjà vu as Britain entered the last day of competition in Osaka. With just a single medal to smile about and more tales of agony than ecstasy it was down to the usual suspects to unearth a few golden nuggets from the last pail of water. And once again the British men’s featherweight and Karina Bryant delivered. Two years ago in Munich, John Buchanan fought long and hard through the repechage to win Bronze in the men’s -60kg category while Bryant claimed Silver in the Open. Once again, Bryant made it to the final, but so too did Buchanan’s explosive replacement, Craig Fallon. But as ever, the year before the Olympics, it was not just about winning medals it was also about getting to Athens, with the top six in each category qualifying automatically.

Fallon had built a huge reputation over the last 18 months and this was his opportunity to see if he could cut it at the very top, with the pressure on – and he delivered. While for Bryant it was another chance to cement herself amongst the leading women heavyweights and, but for the formidable Chinese, she might have come away with two titles. But first Fallon, the 21-year-old from Wolverhampton who has risen like dough in an oven over the last two years. He can now truly call himself one of the best in the world. In truth his draw was favourable, if not kind, but he made the most of it and stormed, triumphantly, into the final in devastating fashion.

His second round pitted him against tough Belarussian Siarhei Novikau who he threw for Ippon before he also despatched Nam Chol Pak of North Korea. That brought him face to face with Cedric Taymans of Belgium, himself the runner-up two years ago. There was only ever one fighter in it as Fallon took him apart, scoring Waza-ari with his head-lock version of Tai-otoshi before fouling out the Belgian who simply could not handle his industry. That put him in the semi-final against German Oliver Gussenberg, part of a renaissance German team that was enjoying unexpected success. Gusenberg was dangerous and had eliminated the impressive Iranian Masou Hajiakhound in the quarters with a bizarre upside-down technique (that someone scored Waza-ari) which ended in a victorious hold.

The German struck first, scoring Waza-ari but one thing Fallon has become renowned for this year is his heart and never-say-die attitude. Back he came to score Waza-ari himself with Seoi-nage and survive a potentially damaging armlock to win through by Shido. It was like a dream come true but Gussenberg had damaged his elbow enough to ensure Fallon would not be without his trademark strapping in the final – albeit not around his head for a change. That was where the fairytale ended, though, as the brilliant and electric South Korean Min Ho Choi blitzed him in the final. Choi was too fast, as Fallon later admitted, and regardless of his injury he was up against a man fighting on a different planet. Fallon survived several scares thanks to his incredible ability to twist and turn in midair to avoid landing on his back, but Choi was always quicker to attack and the Brit struggled to launch an attack of his own. The South Korean ended the match with a sweet Ouchi-gari for Ippon and Choi finally fulfilled the promise he showed three years ago in Sydney (before he froze and tripped over his own feet in the final against Japan’s Tadahiro Nomura).

Although a brilliant result for Fallon, there is still much work to be done if he is to win Britain’s first Olympic Gold medal next year. Choi sparkled, so too did Nomura, apart from a moment in the quater finals when he appeared to run out of steam against Tunisia’s competitive and swamping yet deposed champion, Anis Lounifi. These were the three men sharing the podium with Fallon and will be amongst the front runners in Athens. Lounifi might feel a little fortunate he is invited after a bizarre and stupid celebration (following his Bronze medal win against Pak) landed him in hot water with IJF president Yong Sung Park. He was severely reprimanded for removing his jacket and parading in front of Mr Park with his jacket held aloft, before he left the mat – daft.
Pak himself was involved in the most controversial contest moment of the event when he fought in the repechage final against Hajiakhond. The Iranian was winning comfortably until with less than 15 seconds remaining, Pak applied a strangle. Hajiakhond tried, in vain, to see out time but passed out just before the final buzzer could save him. As the referee called Sore-made, Pak released his grip, only for the Iranian to slump face down onto the mat – motionless; Pak jumped around with joy, realising he was the winner. The Iranians protested indignantly and after a time, Hajiakhond came round, jumped to his feet and tried to shake off his ill effects. But after careful deliberation, the referees got it spot on and awarded Ippon to Pak. Not only that, but he thus qualified automatically for the Olympic Games.

There was no such drama for Bryant in either of her two successful categories. The tall heavyweight is fast becoming Britain’s new Kate Howey thanks to her ability to bring home a medal from almost every big championship at which she competes. But last year was a major disappointment as she bombed out early in the Europeans and missed out on selection for the Commonwealth Games. Already this year, in May, she had proved by winning Gold at the Europeans that she was a new woman and a more focussed fighter. On the first day at the Worlds she competed in the -78kg, where two years ago she finished fifth. This time around, that would have been enough to secure a place at Athens but Bryant was aiming higher and wanted a medal. She started well with swift victories against the awkward Slovenian, Lucija Polauder, and Junior World Champion from Tunisia, Ahlem Azabi.

But then came her first collision with the Chinese – the 1996 Olympic Champion, Fuming Sun. And like a blazing star she tore into Bryant with ruthless efficiency, using a powerful Seoi-nage, a technique only Chinese and Japanese heavyweights seemed able to execute. Sun produced a constant barrage of attacks and these eventually culminated in a victory on penalties. Bryant came back strongly and breezed past Turkey’s Belkis Zeha Kaya with a hold and then swept Francoise Harteveld (who she once lost to in a Junior European final) off her feet for Ippon with Sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi. That secured her place at Athens and put her in a Bronze medal contest against Cuba’s vastly experienced and twice World Open Champion, Daima Beltran. But Bryant had a game plan and stuck to it rigidly. She took her favourite grip for counters and then waited for Beltran’s inevitable attack. The Cuban turned in for Ashi-guruma and Bryant hauled her over backwards with Ko-soto-guruma for a thudding Ippon.

It was a great victory but not her best Ippon of the tournament – that would come in her even more successful foray in the Open category on the Sunday. There she quickly disposed of Ledis Salazar from El Salvador and then foot swept Claudia Zwiers of the Netherlands for Ippon. Against Mariana Prokfyeva of Ukraine she demonstrated her true talent with a sublime Uchi-mata for Ippon securing her place in the semi-final. This was once more against Beltran, surely she could not bundle over the great Cuban a second time. She did! Only this time it was with an incredible Khabarelli pick-up for another thumping Ippon. It was turning into a marvellous tournament for the 24-year-old from Camberley. But in the final she ran into yet another Chinese super-tanker and had to settle for a Silver medal. Tong Wen twice took her over with Ko-uchi-gari before pinning her for Ippon. But it was still a great tournament for Bryant who went home with two more World Championship medals, to double her collection. For the Chinese, it completed a remarkable treble. China has the World +78kg and Open weight Champions and with Hua Yuan as Olympic Champion, it has the three global heavyweight titles with three different athletes. There can be no doubt that the Chinese women are in a league of their own in the heavyweight division.

That was the extent of the British medal winning but two more fighters did qualify the place for the Olympics. Kate Howey was back to her scintillating best in the -70kg division. She did struggle a little to overcome Hungary’s Anett Meszaros in the first round, but thereafter she was unstoppable. Susana Schlagnitweit of Austria was thrown for Ippon and China’s Dongya Qin lasted just 20 seconds before Kate went on to armlock Poland’s former European Champion Adriana Dadci. That put her in a semi-final against the rising Cuban, Regla Zulueta. Howey started brighter and more positively but the physical Cuban was always a danger. And she made the vital breakthrough with a subtle twitch technique that took Howey over backwards for Yuko. That was decisive as the Briton suffered a knee injury, a torn cruciate ligament, that hampered her as she pushed forward in desperation. Eventually, after a failed Tomoe-nage attack, and with just 12 seconds left on the clock, Howey was forced to retire. With her place at Athens secure, there was no point coming out for the Bronze medal fight against Annett Boehm, so the impressive Germans won yet another gong. In the final Zulueta was no match for the brilliant Masae Ueno from Japan who retained her title. Edith Bosch of the Netherlands made up for her European championships disappointment to win Bronze.

Georgina Singleton also performed well, matching Howey to take fifth place and confirm her Olympic team position for next year. She was a convincing winner against Kristel Taelmans of Belgium and Romania’s Ioana Aluas before meeting the brilliant Cuban Amarilis Savon who was fighting in her first global championship at -52kg having previously won World Silver and Olympic Bronze at -48kg. The fight was a classic cagey affair with each wary of the other’s strengths. It was so tight that it went to golden score but crucially, Singleton was caught on the ground. Savon is unlike the other Cuban athletes in that she does not rely on a dropping Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi. She can do that technique standing and also has an array of excellent techniques, in tachi-waza and ne-waza. She controlled Singleton on the ground, turned her over with the Sangaku roll and then pinned her for Ippon with Sangaku-gatame.

There was no disgrace in losing to Savon, particularly in ne-waza as the Cuban won every contest on the ground on the way to a sensational victory. Every opponent was pinned for Ippon, except her first, Salima Soukri of Algeria, who was strangled (it was a far cry from one of Savon’s early outings at this weight at the Tournoi de Paris last year when Souakri beat her on the way to the title). In the final Savon faced the brilliant, tall young 20-year-old Frenchwoman Annabelle Euranie who’s leggy Uchi-mata and awkward extreme-left stance caused many problems. Euranie struck first with an Uchi-mata that scored Waza-ari but had Savon’s heart in her mouth at one point. She did not panic though, and came back to win with a hold after another piece of excellent ne-waza. The pair showed great sportsmanship at the end and embraced. Even Savon’s coach, Ronaldo Veitia Valdivie, went over to congratulate the plucky youngster. Singleton came back to beat tough young Israeli Michal Feinblat in the repechage final before her luck ran out in the Bronze medal contest against Japan’s Yuki Yokosawa. With seconds left on the clock after a tight encounter, Yokosawa scored Waza-ari with Ouchi-gari, before pinning Singleton for Ippon. To her credit though, she never stopped struggling, even when time had elapsed and the result was without question, she kept on wriggling like a trapped salmon.

Two other fighters put in impressive performances and came within a single victory of Olympic qualification but ultimately went home frustrated. Winston Gordon was excellent at -90kg. He threw Argentina’s Eduardo Costa for Waza-ari and Ippon with a counter before scrapping past Kazakhstan’s Maxim Rakov. He blitzed the German Gerhard Dempf, to gain a rare victory for the Brits against our Germanic brethren, with a superb Sumi-gaeshi. Now in the quarter-final, he needed a single win to guarantee fifth place and a trip to Athens. But that was where it all went wrong. Gordon started well against Siarhei Kukharenko of Belarus and looked by far the better fighter, but he walked onto a Harai-goshi and was dumped for Ippon. In the repechage he was on the end of some stringent penalties and fouled out against Francisco Lepre of Italy. There was an unexpected victor in this category, with South Korea’s Hee Tae Hwang making the most of the carnage, in which the likes of Olympic Champion Mark Huizinga of the Netherlands and World Champion Frederic Demontfaucon of France both went out early. Hwang beat Georgia’s Zurab Zviadauri in the final with a simple but brilliant piece of ne-waza. He performed the most basic rollover with a trapped arm straight after the Georgian had thrown and tumbled to the ground, but he moved with such speed that before Zviadauri knew it, he was pinned. It was double heartache for the Georgian who also came second two years ago.

Matthew Purssey also had a great run at -73kg and made the quarter-finals with a victory against Olympic Champion Guiseppe Maddaloni of Italy – his second in a row against the Italian. Maddaloni scored Yuko twice with Seoi-nage but found the much taller Purssey an awkward opponent and was penalised to Keikoku, with the last crucial penalty coming with less than 20 seconds to play. Purssey showed his versatility in the earlier rounds with an Uchi-mata to beat Estonia’s Urmas Pitsi and a Sukeshi to dispose of Serbia’s Srdjan Mrvaljevic. However, the diminutive Moldovan, Victor Bivol, had his number. Bivol scored Yuko with Tani-otoshi and in the dying moments with Purssey pushing forward hard, the Moldovan scooped him up with Morote-gari and dumped him for Ippon. Purssey then lost in his first repechage fight against Uzbekistan’s Egamnazar Akbarov and his plucky challenge was over.

South Korea’s Won Hee Lee proved to be one of the stars of the tournament in winning Gold. His left Tai-otoshi from the sleeves was simply stunning and dispatched Japan’s exciting Yusuke Kanamaru in the quarter-final and Bivol in the semi-final. Lee’s challenger forthe title, France’s Daniel Fernandes, tricked his way into the final with a horribly destructive performance in his semi-final against Russia’s reigning champion Vitali Makarov, who had been in desperate form all year until this championship. Fernandes just blocked Makarov from gripping until the last seconds and then lurched forward and scored Yuko when the scores had been level at Keikoku apiece. He should have employed similar tactics in the final but instead he went for a death-or-glory Uchi-mata, only for Lee to slip it and dump him on his head, then shoulders and back with a slick Sukeshi. Makarov made up for his disappointment with Bronze and Portugal’s Joao Pena won his country’s only medal by beating Bivol.

There was little else from the Brits to get excited about with all but Karen Roberts going out in the first contest. Roberts squeezed past Ana Repida of Moldova but then came unstuck against her nemesis, Belgium’s Gella Vandecaveye, the reigning champion. She could have well expected a second chance in the repechage but Vandecaveye was surprisingly beaten on penalties by Cuba’s Driulis Gonzalez, a twice World Champion and once Olympic Champion at -57kg (and -56kg) but making her first appearance in the Worlds at this weight. She went all the way to the final in a category full of upsets and was then upset her self by Argentina’s Daniela Krukower. The former Israeli athlete showed her potential by running Gonzalez close in the Pan-American Games final the month before and this time she got her reward with a Tani-otoshi for Ippon. Vandecaveye was sensationally dumped for Ippon with Osoto-gari by Brazil’s Vania Ishii in the repechage but Ishii could not make it onto the podium and was beaten by Italy’s Ylenia Scapin. Germany rose to the podium once again with Anna Von Harnier.

There was no joy for the Scottish contingent with David Somerville going out at -66kg to Greece’s Lavrentis Alexanidis and -81kg fighter Euan Burton thrown for Ippon by a familiar Uruguayan, Alvaro Paseyro. Rachel Wilding had a great scrap with Germany’s Uta Kuehnen in the -78kg but was well behind on points at the end and Nathalie Barry, a late replacement for Sophie Cox at -57kg, was also beaten by a German, Yvonne Boenisch. That category was won by the incredible North Korean Sun Hui Kye who achieved a remarkable feat with her victory against Boenisch in the final. She was the reigning champion at -52kg and also the 1996 Olympic Champion at -48kg and hence won her third global title in a third, different weight category! – a record that may never be equalled. Roberts and the rest of the -66kg division will be looking anxiously over their shoulders come Athens, although in truth Kye looks small at -57kg as it is.

Japan’s incomparable Kosei Inoue was once again THE star of the show and deservedly won the award for Best Judoka and the Ippon Trophy. He was simply magnificent. Zoltan Palkovacs of Slovakia, a victim of Seoi-nage, and Spain’s Ivan Vega, gunned down with Uchi-mata, lasted 44 seconds between them. Georgia’s Iveri Jikurauli spoiled and stifled for 68 seconds before Inoue decided enough was enough and ruthlessly strangled him. Then Canada’s long-suffering Nicolas Gill survived at least half a dozen Uchi-mata scares before he was tricked with an Ouchi-gari feint and bounced for Ippon with………Uchi-mata of course! It was the same combination that accounted for him in the Sydney final three years ago, after which he proclaimed he still had a ‘plan B’ to stop Inoue’s Uchi-mata! France’s Ghislain Lemaire certainly has the key to stopping it – he threw Inoue for Yuko with a Sukeshi counter to the Uchi-mata at the World Team Championships in Basel last year. So when they met in this final the incredible Japanese reverted to Harai-goshi and on the fourth attempt, Lemaire was buried. It was one of an incredible five Silver medals for the luckless French (stop that sniggering at the back, ed).
Another great achievement came form Ryoko Tamura – the pocket dynamo. She was backed by a 6,000 strong fan club from one of her sponsors, Toyota, and some particularly pleasing cheerleaders. Whenever she entered the auditorium they produced an unrelenting cacophony of sound. And she rose to the electric atmosphere to produce some stunning Ippon victories in the early rounds before fighting tactically to win a record sixth World title, something no-one else has ever managed at a single weight category. Once again the beaten finalist was French, Frederique Jossinet.

Japan topped the medal table with six Gold medals to three for South Korea and two for China. Cuba won only one, via Savon, and were closely followed by Germany who claimed the men’s -81kg title. Florian Wanner had some good form in previous years but never performed at the major championships. Yet, as with all the Germans here, he was on fire. He even managed to beat the Korean-turned- Japanese, Yoshihiro Akiyama, who overcame great controversy surrounding his jacket just to compete in the tournament. His first two opponents complained they could not grip the jacket because it was too slippery, a similar accusation levelled by World and Olympic Champion Kenzo Nakamura in the final of the Japanese trials. As he protested, Akiyama threw him for Ippon. But here he was eventually forced to change his judogi and without it, much like Samson and his hair, Akiyama lost his power.

He survived a choking strangle in the semi-final against Wanner during which he came within a couple of breaths of unconsciousness. He rose, unscathed but clearly dazed and confused. His eyes were wandering clumsily but Wanner had used all his energy in attempting the strangle and needed to take a break. Fortunately for him, Akiyama never recovered and with six seconds remaining, Wanner turned the tie around with an Osoto-gari for Ippon. That pitted him against Sergei Ashwanden of Switzerland in the final but as the mad Major in Fawlty Towers kept saying…...”the Germans are coming Fawlty”. It rang true here and Wanner dumped Aschwanden on his shoulder for a generous Ippon with Sukui-nage, gaining a deserved and popular win.

The -66kg title was retained by the tall and talented Iranian Aresh Miresmaeli who proved once again a handful for all his opponents. France’s Larbi Benboudaoud, the 1999 Champion, put up a strong fight in getting to the final past popular Japanese fighter Tomoo Torii. But he was caught early by Miresmaeli who’s pick-ups are stunning. He dumped Benboudaoud with Yoko-sutemi-waza, but both look like being the principal protagonists come Athens. Although, Russia’s Magomed Djafarov was desperately unlucky not to beat the Iranian in the semi-final and could justifiably have hoped for some slightly more generous scoring from a couple of his attacks, he did win Bronze, as did Cuba’s Yordanis Arencibia.

Japan won both the men’s +100kg and the Open with two fairly small fighters. The ‘Weeble’ Yasuyuki Muneta made the most of a contentious episode in his second +100kg fight against the Russian favourite Tamerlan Tmenov. Unfortunately, no-one quite knows what happened but Tmenov was leading by two penalties when somehow he acquired a penalty on the scoreboard that no-one, not even the referees, could later explain. No-one picked up on it and the fight continued. Thinking he was well ahead he just gripped with Muneta to the end and picked up one penalty for passivity. He still thought he was winning but really trailed by Koka. The buzzer went, Muneta was awarded the victory and Tmenov was livid. But by then it was too late to do anything about it. Muneta went on to beat Dennis van der Geest of the Netherlands in a disappointing final after van der Geest had ousted Brazil’s Daniel Hernandes in a thrilling semi-final with just 11 seconds remaining. Muneta won by a contentious penalty but van der Geest did not perform to his best. Inoue’s long time understudy at -100kg, Keiji Suzuki was given the berth in the open category to make up for his not being picked for the -100kg slot, even though he beat Inoue in the selection tournament. Suzuki was brilliant though and deservedly won the title with a Kosoto-gari to beat Estonia’s Indrek Pertelson in the final.

That was it for a simply brilliant World Championship that had everything. Record-breaking moments, incredible upsets and, as you would expect, the most brilliant judo anywhere on the planet. And to top it all off, the referees even did a good job! Britain may have finished down in 10th position but in qualifying four fighters for the Olympic Games, only Japan, Cuba, Germany, France and Brazil did better. There may have been only two medallists but that table tells a more complete story. At the moment Britain could fairly claim to be the joint sixth best judo nation in the world, along with Russia, South Korea and the Netherlands and even ahead of China, Italy, Spain and Georgia. There were a lot of positives to take out of this for the team management and with Gordon and Purssey coming close and Roberts always likely to qualify, the future may yet be bright for Britain.

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LEE, Won Hee KOR









SAVON, Amarilis CUB

KYE, Sun Hui PRK



ANNO, Noriko JPN

SUN, Fuming CHN


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