Edition No. 35. Winter, 2003. Today is

2003 All Japan Championships

By Adi Jones
Japan needs a Judo superstar now more than ever. Public interest is on the wane here, especially after the World Cup put Judo even further down the list of popular sports to watch or do.

This year's All Japan Championships was always going to be a bit special, with a couple of old war horses back in action. Former World and Olympic Champion, Shinohara, and the eldest, biggest of the Nakamura brothers who was a former -95kg representative. Most of the other fighters (ranging from 80kg to 160kg) were from about half a dozen main universities - Tokai, Tenri, Chuo, Kokushikan, Nippon Dai, and Nippon Taiiku. They also represented the best of the police, companies and teachers from around Japan. Basically, 37 very hard guys.

I had word beforehand that Muneta was injured and would not be at his best so my tip (sticking my neck out) was Shinohara vs Inoue.

Obviously in the early rounds there was big support for these two. Both scraped through, not looking too impressive. The big surprise early on was the 3rd round loss of Muneta. He really wasn't with it all day, but I'm sure he is already focusing on later in the year.

To begin with there was just the occasional Ippon, and it was only in the quarters that the Judo really took off. Of the last 7 matches, 6 were won by Ippon! Shinohara and Inoue both got Ippons, the former with a trade mark left-handed Osoto-gari, and Inoue with an Ouchigari. The best fighter up to this point had been Suzuki. He had looked comfortable all day and also blasted into the semis with a great Ippon.

Suzuki vs Shinohara was the first semi. Suzuki had done his homework and stopped Shinohara getting the left hand grip, thus stopping his Osoto-gari. This allowed Suzuki to get in some good attacks, and he maintained his work rate and was well up on attacks. Shinohara was made to look very ordinary; actually he looked like a mummy, walking forward trying to get a grip. For 5 minutes Suzuki dominated, then he began to tire and Shinohara sensing his chance upped his work rate and intensity. He tried everything and came close, but Suzuki held on. In the hantei it was 3 - 0 to Suzuki which was the right decision, but for a moment I did wonder whether that last minute by the peoples favourite would stick more in the mind of the judges.

Now the second semi, Inoue was up against Mori who had also won his quarter final by Ippon. The crowd expected, no demanded, at least one hero in the final. But in less than a minute after an Uchi-mata attack, Inoue was slammed backwards, and only just survived. Waza-ari down, some in the crowd grew nervous. Suzuki vs Mori was not the expected final. Inoue (a.k.a. True Champion) was not phased at all. Nothing changed. He didn't step up a gear. He simply got on with what he does best. He just picked his moment, then BANG! Morote-seoinage for Ippon.

Absolutely brilliant. But wait there was still the final to come. We had almost forgotten, as that semi was so exciting it felt like the final. Suzuki was waiting in the wings having had a very hard 6 minute fight. He had obviously planned for Shinohara, but I just don't think you can plan against a fighter like Inoue. This is the best fighter I've ever seen. He is fantastic. So many techniques at his disposal.

The final was simple. Rei, move around a bit, get a grip, have a play around for a bit, then BANG! Ippon again, this time back to Uchimata. (3 Ippons, 3 different techniques). He'd been trying it all day against 130kg-160kg players. When he got hold of someone his own weight it was so easy. Trade mark Uchi-mata, followed by trade mark supplex back arch, arms stretched high.

The crowd had their hero.

100kg players around the world look out. You are fighting for second place at the Worlds.

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- 60 Kg

1. OGAWA, Tkashi (JPN)
2. ISMAYILOV, Elchin (AZE)
3. YONETOMI, Kazurou (JPN)
3. TOKUNO, Kazuhiko (JPN)

- 66 Kg
1. TORI, Tomoo (JPN)
2. KIM, Hyung Ju (KOR)
3. CHOI, Min Ho (KOR)
3. TERAI, Takashi (JPN)

- 73 Kg
1. KANAMARU, Yuusuke (JPN)
2. TAKAMATSU, Masahiro (JPN)
3. AKBAROV, Egamnazar (UZB)
3. TANAKA, Hidemasa (JPN)

- 81 Kg
1. NAKAMURA, Kenzo (JPN)
2. AKIYAMA, Yoshihiro (JPN)
3. RAJABLI, Elkhan (AZE)
3. MURATA, Ryuichi (JPN)

- 90 Kg
1. YAZAKI, Yuta (JPN)
2. IZUMI, Hiroshi (JPN)
3. HWANG, Hee Tae (KOR)
3. DELOK, Vitcheslav (RUS)

- 100 Kg
1. SUZUKI, Keiji (JPN)
2. GILL, Nicolas (CAN)
3. SHOJI, Takeo (JPN)
3. INOUE, Tomokazu (JPN)

+ 100 Kg
1. MUNETA, Yasuyuki (JPN)
2. TAKAHASHI, Hiroaki (JPN)
3. MURAMOTO, Tatsuhiro (JPN)
3. TMENOV, Tamerlan (RUS)
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