12 December 2009

Burton ends Japanese dominance at IJF Grand Slam in Tokyo

With the finals being scheduled with the heaviest of today’s categories first, Takashi Ono’s gold medal win in the men’s -90kg made it three out of three for Japan’s men following yesterday’s wins for Fukuoka (-60kg) and Ebinuma (-66kg). Ono defeated three of his teammates in a row (Haruyama, Yoshida and Nishiyama) to take gold. He was the best of the Japanese and the best overall on the day.

But the final of the -81kg contained no Japanese, Burton having earlier disposed of Matsumoto and Tomouchi (as well as Jereb (SLO) and Lee (TPE) in earlier rounds) whilst Kim (KOR), Burton’s opponent in the final, had himself accounted for Nakai and the dangerous Gulheiro (BRA) who appears to have decided that -73kg is not for him, Muminov (UZB) and Pavlinic (NZL).

It was a grueling day for Burton with some exceptionally tough battles in particular with Jereb (SLO) and the semi final with Matsumoto (JPN). As Yasuhiro Yamashita commented “it may not have been pretty, but it was effective”.

There were two current world champions (Wang KOR -73kg and Ueno JPN -63kg) on show today and, unlike yesterday’s three all of whom left empty handed, these two did not disappoint. Wang, when troubled, always seemed to find a way to battle it out, the mark of a true champion. Otsuka (JPN) with his speed, Tritton (CAN) with his close-quarter superior strength and Awano (JPN) with his throwing skills all posed difficulties for Wang. But he dealt with each challenge competently, never looking in any real danger and cleverly managing both clock and opponent.

Likewise, in the women’s -63kg Yoshie Ueno (JPN) demonstrated some wonderful judo. Whilst Ueno was at times throwing her opponents with ease, Tanimoto (JPN) was proving equally destructive in her half of the draw throwing Nakao (USA) and world No. 2 Willeboordse (NED) to set up a final with Ueno. Mind you, there was the small matter of Tanimoto getting past Yamamoto first. Yamamoto had been doing her own damage in the lower half of the draw disposing of van Emden (NED) in newaza and Koval (RUS) after Koval had buried Filzmoser (AUT) with a bone shaking ura nage. The semi final between these two was a real brawl with Tanimoto coming out on top. It was unfortunate that the final did live up to expectations but Tanimoto was drained and Ueno was content to see tactics and shidos pile up to the point where Tanimoto was awarded hansokumake. Pity. It should have been a better end to the category.

In the absence of world champion Alvear (COL) the way was open for one of six entrants from the top ten of the world ranking list to take the grand Slam prize in the -70kg. The top seed was Anett Mezaros (HUN) who proved too strong for Imai (JPN), too skillful for Klys (POL), and just that bit better than Davydova (RUS) and Kunihara (JPN) on her way to the final. In the lower half of the draw Edith Bosch began as strongly as ever with wins against Gibbons (GBR), Urdabayeva (KAZ) and Hwang (KOR). But her enthusiasm got the better of her in the semi final where she virtually threw herself at Watanabe (JPN) an act that Watanabe accepted without hesitation throwing Bosch for ippon. The final was a repeat of the world championship semi final. But this time it was Watanabe who came out on top and Watanabe who made sure that at least the Japanese women still had a chance for a clean sweep of gold medals.