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Mashu Baker beats icon Iliadis and takes gold at Masters

30 May 2016 01:30

 by Mark Pickering - IJF    IJF Media Team / International Judo Federation
20150828_90_bronze_BAKER, Mashu JPN (2)

World bronze medallist Baker Mashu (JPN) claimed the -90kg World Judo Masters title in his first time competing at the invite-only event. Baker won more admirers with a heroic display which culminated with a pulsating golden score victory over Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Khusen Khalmurzaev (RUS).

Baker, 21, who was icing his right shoulder during the break after a lung-busting semi-final win over Ilias Iliadis (GRE), scored a yuko after one minute and 32 seconds of added time after both judoka had the crowd and their coaches on the edge of their seats. The win lifts Baker to the top of pile as the number seed one for his first Olympics in Rio. Baker started judo aged six at the Kodokan and has gone from starting his journey at the spiritual home of the sport to returning as a member of the national team for weekly training and now as a distinguished member of Japan’s Olympic team. There is still more to come from Khalmurzaev, as there is from Baker, as the two men delivered an extraordinary contest.

Baker said: “It was really important for me to win here and to become the top seed. This was goal and I am satisfied. I grew up watching Ilias Iliadis, he is a legend of judo and I was very pleased to be able to defeat him today. My dream has always been to go to the Olympics and now it is a reality.”

In the first semi-final Baker (JPN) outlasted Greek great Ilias Iliadis (GRE) by a yuko and a waza-ari. Baker, who was nine years old when Iliadis won the 2004 Athens Olympics, scored a waza-ari with a driving ouchi-gari and added a yuko from an innovative piece of te-waza as both men fought purely on instinct in the closing minute. In the second semi-final Axel Clerget (FRA) who has already spoken of his desire to continue for one more cycle was unsuccessful against Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Khusen Khalmurzaev (RUS) as he lost to a sumi-gaeshi for ippon.

The first bronze medal was awarded to Almaty Grand Prix bronze medallist Mihael Zgank (SLO) as Clerget was second best in the opening contest of the final block on day three. The Frenchman, who has openly conceded that he is the back-up for Rio 2016 for French number one Alexandre Iddir (FRA), was penalised for going out and for a false attack while Zgank was only penalised once for passivity in the scoreless contest to earn a career-best result. The second bronze medal went to Baku Grand Slam winner Marcus Nyman (SWE) who will now be a near certainty for a seeded position at the Olympics. Iliadis could not compete in the bronze medal contest due to an injury.

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