In the mens -90kg category, the gold medal dreams were dashed for the Japanese crowd as MUKAI Shoichiro lost out to Noel VAN T END of the Netherlands in the final, settling for a silver medal.
The fifth day of competition has been the most successful for the European representatives, taking a sensational 7 of the 8 medals on offer in the -70kg and -90kg categories.
VAN T END had a truly incredible day, defeating some talented athletes including the 2015 World Champion and 2019 Paris Grand Slam winner, GWAK Donghan (KOR) and Axel CLERGET (FRA) in preliminaries. The semi final against Nemanja MAJDOV (SRB) was a close call, both on and off the mat to be tended to by doctors as their bodies took a battering, both desperate to make it in to the final. Eventually it was a dynamic and perfectly times double sleeved seoi nage from the Dutch that claimed the final contest.
The Japanese opponent had defeated the 2018 World silver medallist Ivan Felipe SILVA MORALES (CUB) and Swedish athlete who took fifth place in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Marcus NYMAN in an unlikely semi final that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
MUKAI did not have an answer for VAN T END, and with just over 30 seconds left on the clock, the Dutchman managed to secure a waza ari score and the Nippon Budokan erupted, either with those supporting the Dutch or those urging MUKAI to even the score. Unfortunately for Japan, they wouldn’t be hearing their national anthem today as Noel VAN T END took his first ever World medal.
Running through VAN T END’s mind was judo legend, Anton GEESINK of the Netherlands. The 10th Dan judoka was the first non-Japanese to take a World title in 1961. Then 3 years later in the Olympic Games when judo became an official sport, GEESINK once again dominated the open weight category and did so in the Budokan. Here we are 55 years later and VAN T END defeated the Japanese in the final, if GEESINK could do it, then he would follow in his footsteps and take the gold in the Tokyo. If that wasn’t enough motivation, exactly 10 years to this date, the 29th of August, the last World title was taken by a Netherlands representative, Marhinde VERKERK in the -78kg category in Rotterdam and will be fighting tomorrow to redeem her World Champion status.
The Dutch team and staff celebrated throughout the Budokan, with a very strong team, especially in the heavyweight categories, this win could perhaps motivate those still to fight to achieve more than they thought possible.
Both of the bronze medal contests were extremely difficult, but eventually the wins went to CLERGET and MAJDOV. Neither are strangers to the World Championship podium, MAJDOV became Champion in Budapest, 2017 and CLERGET took a bronze last year in Baku. The level of judo was so high across the entire category but these men are the ones who came out on top today. The pair were also happy with their results as they had endured dark periods this year in regards to injuries, either months off the tatami or relatively recent surgeries.
The latter was experienced by the Serbian athlete, a surgery on his knee preventing him from training and sending him in to the World Championships with almost no preparation but feeling the risk would be worth it, and he was right.
Im feeling amazing, for me this bronze feels like gold, maybe even more golden than in Budapest when I became World Champion. For me its amazing, I don’t know how it is possible because I didn’t train and now – he jokes – I feel like maybe I won’t train in the future!
MAJDOV was so full of good spirits and beyond happy with this result, putting him in good stead for the Olympic Games and earning him not only a memorable medal but those much needed points.
CLERGET suffered a very public injury in the Paris Grand Slam this year during the quarter final against 2015 World Champion, GWAK Donghan (KOR) whereby the final exchange left the Frenchman writhing in agony on the tatami, and later discovering he would be out until the European Games in June, just under six months away. The hamstring injury made CLERGET second guess whether a medal would be attainable today, lacking the preparation he felt the World Championships required, however, he proved himself wrong,
It was really amazing because of this hard year, a big injury, at the beginning I was told I would need to move up a weight and not compete here because I will stay home for six months, so really it is a big pleasure to take a medal here.
Author: Thea Cowen