Two overwhelming favourites and a newcomer to the top of the podium provided a fitting end to the Judo World Championship in Rotterdam here Sunday.
China’s TONG Wen in the Women’s +78kg and Teddy Riner of France in the Men’s +100kg were the undisputed champions in their weight categories, while Maxim Rakov of Kazakhstan won the first judo world title in history for his country when he beat homecrowd favourite Henk Grol (NED) in the exciting final of the Men’s -100kg division.
Riner’s victory gave him three gold medals in three participations and coming with it a 100% winning record.
With his six bouts today en route to his title, he has now gone unbeaten in 18 consecutive world championship bouts.
The last athlete who managed to win 17 consecutive world championship bouts was Japan´s superstar Kosei Inoue who won the world championships in the men´s -100kg category in 1999 in Birmingham, 2001 in Munich and 2003 in Osaka. He did not compete in 2005 in Cairo.
For the 2007 World Championships Inoue had gone up one category and tried to continue his world title winning streak in the category over 100kg.
However, he was stopped there, losing his first round match against the then 18-year-old new and up comer Riner.
Riner has since then never been beaten in World Championships (won 2007 in Rio de Janeiro and the Open World Championships in Levallois-Perret in 2008).
Today, at the age of 20, Riner won his gold medal match against Oscar Brayson (CUB), broke Inoue´s record and secured his third World Champion title.
Neither silver-medallist Oscar Brayson nor bronze medallist Marius Paskevicius (LTU) had ever won any medals in world championships before. But whereas Cuba stands at a total of 61 medals now, Lithuania is now the third country (after Armenia and Colombia) to win their first medal ever at the Rotterdam World Championships.
Abdullo Tangriev (UZB) added a third bronze medal to his collection. His attempts to improve previous performances was stopped by Oscar Brayson in the semifinal after a tough and close fight decided by the tiny difference of one versus two punishments.
Medal contenders Andreas Toelzer (GER), 2003 World Champion Yasuyuki Muneta (JPN) and under 100kg 2004 Olympic Champion Ihar Makarau (BLR) left the competition without a medal.
In the under 100kg class, Rakov showed he is a force for the future.
Although the 23-year-old Rakov took the gold at the Asian Championships earlier this year, he was still not considered to be a hot favourite to win the world title. Rotterdam proved to be once again a lucky place for the Kazakh judoka as he had won the Super World Cup in 2008 here as well.
On his way to the final, Rakov beat reigning European champion Tagir Khaibulaev (RUS) in the second round. In the semifinal, the Kazakh overcame another up and coming young athlete, 18-year-old Elmar Gasimov (AZE), before he met Grol in the final.
In spite of the homecrowd cheering loudly for the Dutch judoka, Rakov kept his focus and threw Grol on the mat to win by Ippon after 4.14 minutes. Rakov took revenge for losing to Grol five years ago at the world junior championships U20.
Grol secured his first medal at the world championships after taking the bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games and the European title in 2008.
Top contender Takamasa Anai (JPN) had lost to Gasimov in the quarterfinal but then went on to win the bronze over Artem Bloshenko (UKR).
Ramadan Darwish (EGY) earned the second bronze medal beating an exhausted Gasimov.
Defending world champion Luciano Correa (BRA) lost in the third round to another youngster, 20-year-old Temuulen Battulga (MGL) which left Brazil with empty hands on this championship.
Tong of China justified all expectations, smashing her competition in the women’s heavyweight division. The reigning Olympic Champion confirmed her supremacy in an impressive manner and won each of her five matches by Ippon.
Tong needed just six seconds to dispose of Rania El Kalili (MAR) in the first round, which very well might have been the shortest fight of the championships. The Chinese then beat medal contender Tea Donguzashvili (RUS) after 3.44 minutes. This was her longest match of the day as the 26-year-old sent Japan’s Maki Tsukada out of the competition after 1.28 minutes.
In the semi-final, Gulsah Kocaturk (TUR) succumbed to Tong in just 12 seconds. In the final, Tong threw Karina Bryant (GBR) to score ippon 1.36 minutes into the bout.
Tong collected her fifth world title since 2003. She had won the open category in 2003 and 2008 and the +78kg title in 2005 and 2007.
Bryant added another silver medal to her collection. She now has six silver medals at world championships, the last coming back in 2005, so taking silver here in Rotterdam was a comeback for the 30-year-old athlete.
Idalis Ortiz Boucurt (CUB) beat Kocaturk for the bronze medal. The second bronze medal went to Tsukada, who overcame Franziska Konitz (GER).