After some sensational contests for the bronze medal, Georgia and the Netherlands claimed their place on the 2023 world championships podium in the mixed teams event. Next up were France and Japan. The ultimate head to head.
Japan returned as the defending world champions, and France as the Olympic ones. Joan Benjamin GABA (FRA/-73kg) was first up, and quickly off after only 21 seconds. It was a stunning start for the French team as he executed an ippon-scoring uchi mata against HASHIMOTO Soichi, setting the tone for this 2023 final. Margaux PINOT absolutely got the message and continued on the blue white red wave against world champion NIIZOE Saki in the -70kg category. The French athlete countered an uchi mata attempt scoring waza ari in golden score, but continued to apply an arm lock to guarantee the win.
TAJIMA Goki (JPN) was the first in his team to put a score on the board, but it was no easy feat against Maxime-Gael NGAYAP HAMBOU, the team were on the edge of their seats as both picked up two shidos and entered in to golden score. Eventually an uchi mata variation brought the win to Tajima.
Next for the French was Coralie HAYME in the +70kg category, who defeated her opponent SEGAWA Maya with a tactical game, ensuring she continued with strong attacks and preventing Segawa from doing the same. This took the score to 3:1 in favour of team France but up next was SAITO Tatsuru against Jospeh TERHEC in the men’s open category, this also resulted in an accumulation of shidos, giving a point to Japan.
Finally, FUNAKUBO Haruka took on Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE. The pressure was on Cysique to end this final, one more point and the French team could claim the world title. In the Olympic Games, she was the final nail in the coffin, securing the historic gold and today it was all on her again and she was off to a tremendous start, scoring waza ari with uchi mata and giving the French team hope. The French athlete did not stop and caused quite the headache for Funakubo, almost scoring again at the half way mark. In an absolutely stunning turn, Cysique made an error and fell in to osae komi which meant it was a draw and a deciding contest was anticipated.
The big screen showed the entire arena the weight wheel. As it spun, displaying all of the weight categories, it slowed down to the -70kg category. Pinot and Niizoe went head to head for a second time. A ko soto from Pinot came close in the first thirty seconds, then a shime waza was almost on from Niizoe, this was a close one. As the Japanese athlete went off for medical attention, coach Christophe MASSINA instructed his athlete and her team mate threw out words of encouragement.
There was a French celebration as a score was given for some amazing ashi waza but instead a shido was given for use of the leg. Already Pinot had a shido following a tomoe nage attempt straight in to kansetsu waza, and unfortunately, she did it for a second time which produced a third shido and gave the team of Japan the gold medal.
Following the medal ceremony, Massina was not discouraged,
I really like this spirit of the team, we have been working hard and came close, you know we were world champions for a moment and I know we can do it. Like the Japanese say, ‘chotto chotto’.
Author: Thea Cowen