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Tokyo Preview men U73kg: Shohei Ono is the most feared

27 Aug 2019 01:20

 JudoCrazy and JudoInside    Mongolian JudoHeroes

Some of the most exciting divisions at the World Championships in Tokyo is the category U73kg. Most fans will look forward to the performances of Olympic Champion Shohei Ono. He is opposed in Poule C against 2012 Olympic Champion U66kg) Lasha Shavdatuashvili.

Ono hasn't competed a whole lot recently and as a result he is ranked outside the Top 10, but his ranking doesn't reflect his dominance in this category. Without question he is the top favorite and the most feared player in his weight class.

Just as Japan is spoiled for choice in the U60kg division with Takato and Nagayama; and the U66kg division with Abe and Maruyama; it also has the same "good problem" in the U73kg with Shohei Ono and Soichi Hashimoto.

Having used up their allotment of two extra spots (each team can field up to a total of 9 players per gender), for U60kg and U66kg, Japan could only field one U73kg player and Ono was the one selected. Soichi Hashimoto was selected for the Mixed Team event instead.

Being the Olympic Champion, that doesn't mean he will have it easy. Just look at the top five: Rustam Orujov (AZE), he seems to have a good draw with Basile (ITA), Butbul (ISR) who will face Smagulov in a tough fight. 

Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO) is with Ono (non seeded) and Ganbaatar (MGL). European CHampion Tommy Macias (SWE) is in Poule D with Zingg, Margelidon, Iartcev (RUS) and CHaine (FRA). Hidayat Heydarov (AZE) is the man in Poule B with Mogushkov (RUS), Akil Gjakova (KOS) and  Tsend-Ochir (MGL), all formidable players.

Ono has beaten Orujov four times; and Shavdatuashvili and Heydarov once each. He has never fought Macias or Gjakova though. That might work towards their advantage as they are familiar with his moves whereas he might be less familiar with their style of judo.

The one person who could really give him a run for his money is An Changrim (KOR) who gave him a really hard time at the 2018 Asian Games. Although Ono won that one, many observers say it was poor refereeing that resulted in An's defeat. An is injured and won’t compete in Tokyo. It's worth noting that in their final, An had managed to pull off a transition throw that should have been scored but wasn't. An Ono-An rematch in Tokyo would have been awesome, but he will face a few others. Last year’s bronze medallist Mohammad Mohammadi of Iran pulled back, but Mongolia also sent some nasty warriors. Ganbaatar Odbayar is a seeded player and likely linked to Shavdatuashvili’s poule. The other man is unseeded and for us even a bigger talent: Tsend-Ochir Tsogtbaatar. Canada’s Arthur Margelidon can stunt but we estimate European Champion Tommy Macias stronger in a battle for a possible semi-final position.

Dirk van Tichelt is back after a severe injury, a miracle on its own and he is in the group with Basile. Dirk, Miki Ungvari, Victor Scvortov and Musa Mogushkov, are experienced fighters. Mogushkov never fails but his Russian teammate Denis Iartcev even beat Ono in an exciting contest in a team match between Russia and Japan, but it was for sure a real match. Iartcev is an outsider in poule D with Macias, we won't wipe him out in advance.

We didn’t yet mention Fabio Basile as a medal potential, but for sure you can count on him and he might reach the last eight, it's possible. It took him some time to gain ground U73kg but he is ready to build up his 340 days to the Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic champion Fabio Basile (ITA) said: “I’m very happy to fight here in Tokyo, I think Japan is the best nation for the education of the world. I like to stay here. I enjoy my time here. We’ll see how the competition goes, I hope I will do well and I’m aiming for gold. A male Italian judoka has never won gold at the Worlds and I hope I’m the first.”

As last tip we will not underestimate the German boys Igor Wandtke and Anthony Zingg. He is able to deliver massive fights with top players. They guys are keen on messing up the top eight. Anyway, day 3 will be hugely interesting, but Ono is by far the favourite and will be heavily supported by the home crown. What does this do to him. Not always that resulted in a gold medal on home soil. Very likely Miklos Ungvari is his first opponent. It is 5-6 years ago that they met twice, for instance at the World CHampionships in Rio where Ono won, same result as the Grand Slam in Tokyo in 2014 where Ono progressed to the final.

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  • Shohei Ono (JPN) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © JudoHeroes
  • Rustam Orujov (AZE) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © JudoHeroes & IJF Media, Copyright:
  • Hidayet Heydarov (AZE) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © JudoHeroes & IJF Media, Copyright:

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