Rotterdam 2009: Day 1st – Asia and Europe grabb all 12 medals

Although the first day of the World Judo Championships provided an opening session of unprecedented shocks, Asia and Europe, the two strongest continents in the sport, still grabbed all the 12 medals when the first three weight categories were decided in Rotterdam, Holland today.


With 100 countries sending athletes to the event, the championships emphasised just how global the sport has become as fighters tussled for supremacy.


Japan’s dismay at the early defeat of Masato Uchishiba, the double Olympic under 66 kilos champion, was partially compensated by the victory in the women’s Under 48 kilos division, the smallest in the sport, of Tomoko Fukumi, successor to the legendary Ryoki Tani, seven times world champion, who is pregnant. In the other two classes decided today, Mongolia’s Tsagaanbaatar Hashbaatar finished first in the under 66 kilos and Georgii Zantaraia of the Ukraine got the gold medal in the under 60s kgs.


This lightest division of the men’s competition was blown apart by a series of upsets. Min-Ho Choi of Korea, the Olympic champion, lost in his second bout, while Ludwig Paischer, of Austria, the runner-up in Beijing last year, went out in his first bout. Another early casualty was the Dutchman, Ruben Houkes, the title-holder, beaten by the Brazilian born and Canadian citizen Sergio Pessoa. Houkes lamented:”It has been a horrible day. Pessoa is a real judoka but it was a match I should not have lost. I wanted to let him become tired but I didn’t get into the fight. There are so many judokas in this weight class who can beat each other.”


So it proved. None of the four medallists were on the podium in Beijing last year, with Zantaraia getting the gold medal. In the final, he locked in close to the shorter Japanese, Hiroaki Hiraoka and dumped him with a kosotogake that landed his opponent flat on his back for ippon. The Ukrainian said afterwards:”My second place in the European Championships gave me a lot of confidence and I prepared carefully for this event, visiting several training camps. Today I felt confidence in each bout and I won each of my matches by ippon.” The bronze medals went to Hovhannes Davtyan of Armenia and, surprisingly but deservedly, Elio Verde of Italy.


The men’s under 66 kilos threw up almost as many upsets. Uchishiba lost to Mirali Sharipov of Uzbekistan saying:”Today, my will to succeed wasn’t strong enough.” Benjamin Darbelet, of France, who lost the final to the Japanese in Beijing and has won five European Championship medals, also went out early. This helped clear the way for the Mongolian Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar, wearing a belt with the word ‘Champion’ embossed on the back, finally to get the title – and indeed the medal –for which he has craved for so long, having fought in this event since 2003. This year, he has taken part in three different categories, winning the Grand Slam in Moscow. In the final today, he scored a wazari to defeat Sugoi Uriarte of Spain. The bronze medals went to Miklos Ungvari of Hungary and the Korean Jeong-Hwan An, who defeated the Russian Alim Gadanov on a passivity point in extra-time.


In the women’s under 48 kilos, Frederique Jossinet, the highly experienced French fighter and an Olympic silver-medallist in 2004, lost to Olana Blanco of Spain but got a bronze medal from the repechage, together with Korea’s Jung-Yeon Chung. The final was between Fukumi and Blanco, which the Japanese won with a superb drop left-handed morote-seionage, falling to her knees and hurling the Spaniard over her shoulder to the mat for a wazari. This was enough to win the contest. She said afterwards:”This is the best feeling you can ever have and I am determined to win more gold medals in the future.”