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Joshiro Maruyama takes the lead with World gold U66kg

26 Aug 2019 16:25

 Mark Pickering - IJF    IJF Gabriela Sabau / International Judo Federation

Today’s semi final could have been the final with HIfumi Abe and Joshiro Maruyama who battled not just for the final spot but for much more, it was a statement who earns a place at the Olympic Games next year. Abe was close but it was Maruyama who suddenly scored and qualified for the final where the gold was reserved for Japan.

Maruyama Joshiro confirmed himself as Japan’s number one and the best U66kg judoka in the world by beating world number 29 Kim Limhwan of Korea to take pole position in the race for Tokyo 2020 selection. The world number two threatened several times with his picturesque uchi-mata and, while the warning signs were already there, Kim could not evade successive attempts from the protégé of 1984 Olympic champion and former world champion Hosokawa Shinji. Maruyama scored twice in quick session in the final minute with his inner-thigh reaping technique to seal a day two double for the hosts and the inauguration of the new face of Japanese men’s judo.

In the first semi-final Maruyama beat two-time and defending world champion Abe Hifumi (JPN) in an World Championships epic. Tenri University judoka and World Judo Masters winner Maruyama made a slow start and appeared to be suffering from cramp in his fingers before he began to limp briefly. As the contest continued the challenger was not backing down and, as the adrenaline took over, even tried to employ his usually potent uchi-mata with 30 seconds left. Golden score was needed to produce a winner and Abe, who could barely see out of his right eye, was caught with a yoko-otoshi after three minutes and 46 seconds, for a waza-ari score to end a semi-final blockbuster.

In the second semi-final the unheralded Kim was up to his magic again as he disposed of Baku Grand Slam winner Denis Vieru (MDA) with a textbook, reaching o-uchi-gari for ippon and an unexpected place in the final.

In the first bronze medal contest Tel Aviv Grand Prix winner Manuel Lombardo (ITA) lost a back-and-forth battle against Abe as both men left it all on the mat. Abe thought he had won it when he appeared to produce a buzzer-beating waza-ari score but it was overturned and golden score was summoned. Lombardo, who beat Abe in Paris, could not climb off a hip throw from the Japanese star who prevailed by ippon before his younger sister was shown on the big screen clapping from the athlete tunnel.

Abe let his emotions pour out after leaving the mat after the most physically and mentally demanding day of his life. Smarting from his semi-final defeat, relieved to win bronze, exhausted and no doubt in pain both physically and emotionally, the Japanese superstar took a deep breath before leaving the field of play and putting on a brave face for the media.

In the second bronze medal contest Vieru won a deserved medal for Moldova as he beat Hohhot Grand Prix bronze medallist Yondonperenlei Baskhuu (MGL) after 17 seconds of golden score. The in-form world number five earned his first medal on the Worlds stage by picking up the Mongolian with a front uchi-mata which is actually a common technique from the Mongolian team. Both judoka have recently established themselves as forces in the division and will be backed as contenders next year at the Olympic Games.

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  • Lim-Hwan Kim (KOR), Joshiro Maruyama (JPN) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © IJF Gabriela Sabau, International Judo Federation
  • Joshiro Maruyama (JPN) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © IJF Gabriela Sabau, International Judo Federation
  • Lim-Hwan Kim (KOR), Joshiro Maruyama (JPN) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © IJF Gabriela Sabau, International Judo Federation

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