Three new world champions were inaugurated at the World Championships on Thursday as a day of surprises sent shockwaves through the sport at the Alau Ice Palace.
The men’s -90kg and women’s -70kg and -78kg categories had their chance to shine in Astana as 138 judoka graced the tatami.
Olympic champion Kayla HARRISON (USA) and world champion Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) were eliminated in the -78kg pool stages while -70kg top seed Kim POLLING (NED) bowed out in the quarter-finals.
Greek great and reigning world champion Ilias ILIADIS (GRE) fell in the -90kg second round while world silver medallist Krisztian TOTH (HUN) succumb to resurgent Russian opposition in the quarter-finals.
Day five, which was trending in the world of social media on Twitter in Porto Alegre, Brazil, one of the strongest judo hotbeds in the country, saw a host of new names seize the occasion on the world stage.
Astana Grand Prix winner Komronshokh USTOPIRIYON (TJK), who at 22 years old was one of the youngest judoka in the -90kg field, put in a spirited display as he rose to the occasion in the capital city.
USTOPIRIYON (TJK) came to the IJF after his maiden Grand Prix win last year asking for support and was dually granted financial assistance to compete more regularly and on the biggest stages in the sport.
The Tajikistan fighter defeated Karolis BAUZA (LTU), Isao CARDENAS (MEX), Noel VAN T END (NED) and Aaron HILDEBRAND (GER) to propel himself into the semi-finals. USTOPIRIYON lost to eventual winner GWAK Dong Han (KOR) in the semi-final and unfortunately was injured in the process which meant that he was denied the opportunity to fight fellow beaten semi-finalist BAKER Mashu (JPN) for bronze and finished a career-best fifth-place.
On Saturday, the sixth day of the World Championships, the final three remaining individual categories will be contested in the form of the women’s +78kg heavyweight division and the men’s -100kg and +100kg divisions with Olympic champion and seven-time world champion Teddy RINER (FRA) aiming for a record-breaking eighth world title.
-70kg: Incredible EMANE on the Top of the World Again
The final between Maria BERNABEU (ESP) and Gevrise EMANE (FRA) burst into life after only 16 seconds the French veteran dropped on her knees in an incredibly quick drop-seoi-nage for ippon which steered Emane back to the top of the world.
The first bronze medal fight between Fanny Estelle POSVITE (FRA) and ARAI Chizuru (JPN) was expeditious as the French counterattacked an uchi-mata attempt from ARAI to score an indisputable ippon.
For the second bronze medal fight, Yuri ALVEAR (COL) met Bernadette GRAF (AUT). After one minute, the defending world champion scored a first waza-ari with o-uchi-gari to take a strong lead. Tiring after a long competition day, ALVEAR had a lot of difficulties to keep up her pace. Penalised three times, she was thrown for yuko, but held on to secure a new world medal.
Times were hard for the favourites in the -70kg weight category since the first four athletes in the world ranking list were eliminated during the elimination phase. If Kim POLLING (NED) and Fanny Estelle POSITIVE could still claim a medal, but maximum of bronze, Laura VARGAS-KOCH (GER) and Kelita ZUPANCIC (CAN) did not have the same luck. However, Maria BERNABEU (ESP), who was not part of the most likely contenders for the world title, managed to eliminate in the quarterfinals the world number one, Kim POLLING, who won the last World Masters in Rabat. The team of Austria, represented by Bernadette GRAFF (AUT), integrated the last four at the expense of the French Fanny-Estelle POSVITE, who earlier eliminated the Canadian ZUPANCIC. Using the momentum of her victory against POLLING, BERNABEU integrated the final, winning by penalty against the Austrian.
In the second part of the draw, the triple world champion, Yuri ALVEAR (COL), had the secret hope, once again, to get on the top of the podium in Astana, but Gévrise EMANE (FRA), whose longevity at this level commands admiration, did not permit the Columbian to advance. The French qualified for a new semi-final by inflicting two beautiful yuko to the current world champion, the first with a drop-seoi-nage and the second with a blitz ura-nage.
In pool D, ARAI Chizuru (JPN), slowly but surely, progressed round after round to reach the semi-finals and to join EMANE, thus remaining in the race for gold in the last weight category in which Japan had never won the gold medal. But the experienced EMANE once again entered the final of a world class event and joined BERNABEU, by defeating the Japanese, who was penalised with two shido while the former only received one.
BERNABEU, Maria (ESP) vs. EMANE, Gevrise (FRA)
Bronze Medal Fights
POSVITE, Fanny Estelle (FRA) vs. ARAI, Chizuru (JPN)
ALVEAR, Yuri (COL) vs. GRAF, Bernadette (AUT)
BERNABEU, Maria (ESP) vs. GRAF, Bernadette (AUT)
EMANE, Gevrise (FRA) vs. ARAI, Chizuru (JPN)
POLLING, Kim (NED) vs. POSVITE, Fanny Estelle (FRA)
ALVEAR, Yuri (COL) vs. WILDIKAN, Lior (ISR)
1. EMANE, Gevrise (FRA)
2. BERNABEU, Maria (ESP)
3. ALVEAR, Yuri (COL)
3. POSVITE, Fanny Estelle (FRA)
5. ARAI, Chizuru (JPN)
5. GRAF, Bernadette (AUT)
7. POLLING, Kim (NED)
7. WILDIKAN, Lior (ISR)
-78kg: Historical day for Japan and UMEKI
The last final of the day opposed UMEKI Mami (JPN) and Anamari VELENSEK (SLO). The question was simple: will VELENSEK be able to imitate her teammate from the -63kg weight category and add one title for Slovenia, or will Japan be able to win a fifth gold medal on the occasion of the 2015 edition of the World Championships?
The Slovenian seemed to take the lead during the first half of the fight even if nothing was written on the scoreboard. Both athletes then spent a long sequence on the floor, but VELENSEK’s defense was impenetrable. After four even minutes, it was time for the golden score. The second sequence on the floor was the undoing of the Slovenian. With this victory in -78kg, Japan enters one more time into the legend of judo as the home country of judo has now won a world title in every possible weight category, as the women’s -78kg was the last category never won by an athlete from the country of the rising sun.
In the first bronze medal fight, Luise MALZAHN (GER) totally upset Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA). The French engaged a right handed-o-soto-gari but without control and without putting the German out of balance. The punishment was immediate as MALZAHN counterattacked with o-soto-otoshi for waza-ari, immediately followed with an immobilisation for ippon.
The second place on the podium was decided between Marhinde VERKERK (NED) and Daria POGORZELEC (POL). The Polish was penalised once, giving the victory to Marhinde VERKERK and the very first medal of the Dutch delegation.
World champion and Olympic champion Kayla HARRISON (USA), who won the World Masters in Rabat in May, could not advance beyond the second round as she was blocked by Hyunji YOON (KOR) who threw HARRISON with an unstoppable counterattack during the Golden Score. The road of the semifinals cleared of the American allowed outsiders to take their chance. Thus Pogorzelec Daria (POL) eventually qualified to face UMEKI Mami (JPN) who had settled her account as the top seed in the pool B to Luise Malzahn (GER). It is noteworthy to say that during the first rounds, Pogorzelec had beaten the current world champion, Mayra Aguiar (BRA). UMEKI secured a place in the final with an immobilisation for ippon.
After a difficult start, Audrey Tcheumeo (FRA) managed to recover to also reach the semifinal and meet Polish Pogorzelec on her way to a new title. It must be said that despite extraordinary power, the French appeared very timid during her first fight against Yalennis CASTILLO (CUB). After this winded beginning, Tcheumeo ventured to eliminate JOO Abigel (HUN) by ippon and Marhinde VERKERK (NED) by waza-ari.
In Pool C, unsurprisingly, was the top seed Anamari VELENSEK (SLO) who qualified for the semis, ready to imitate her compatriot Tina TRSTENJAK, who was world champion yesterday in the -63kg. In the quarterfinal, Anamari VELENSEK prevailed against the Olympic silver medallist, Gemma GIBBONS (GBR). With two penalties against one, TRSTENJAK stepped into the final.
UMEKI, Mami (JPN) vs. VELENSEK, Anamari (SLO)
Bronze Medal Fights
MALZAHN, Luise (GER) vs. TCHEUMEO, Audrey (FRA)
VERKERK, Marhinde (NED) vs. POGORZELEC, Daria (POL)
POGORZELEC, Daria (POL) vs. UMEKI, Mami (JPN)
TCHEUMEO, Audrey (FRA) vs. VELENSEK, Anamari (SLO)
YOON, Hyunji (KOR) vs. MALZAHN, Luise (GER)
VERKERK, Marhinde (NED) vs. GIBBONS, Gemma (GBR)
1. UMEKI, Mami (JPN)
2. VELENSEK, Anamari (SLO)
3. MALZAHN, Luise (GER)
3. VERKERK, Marhinde (NED)
5. POGORZELEC, Daria (POL)
5. TCHEUMEO, Audrey (FRA)
7. GIBBONS, Gemma (GBR)
7. YOON, Hyunji (KOR)
-90kg: GWAK beats DENISOV to world gold and the red backpatch
Second at the world championships, but that was in 2009 in Rotterdam, Kirill DENISOV (RUS) again had a chance to inscribe his name among top names of the judo world. But first, he had to face the forceful GWAK Dong Han (KOR), who was the first to attack with the left handed drop-seoi-nage for no score.
At halfway point of the final, neither DENISOV nor GWAK had found the opportunity to throw each other, until the South Korean engaged a tremendous drop-seoi-nage for waza-ari. Six years after Rotterdam and his lost final, the story stuttered again for DENISOV, and the 23-year-old GWAK Dong Han could win his first world title.
Due to an injury, USTOPIRIYON Komronshokh (TJK) could not compete and BAKER Mashu (JPN) won the bronze medal.
The battle between Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) and Beka GVINIASHVILI (GEO) turned to the advantage of LIPARTELIANI, who after having scored a first waza-ari with uchi-mata, scored ippon with a arai-makikomi technique.
The -90kg weight category was announced as extraordinarily tough and the knockout stages did not disappoint the public. In the first rounds, spectators and judo fans could be the witnesses of several finals before the actual one, like TOTH Krisztian (HUN) against Kirill DENISOV (RUS), or Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) against GWAK Dong Han (KOR).
Thus, in the battle between the Hungarian and the Russian, DENISOV managed to undermine his opponent, TOTH Krisztian, who was promised a bright future after his second place last year behind his idol, the Greek Ilias ILIADIS. The latter was also quickly defeated by Lkhagvasuren Otgonbaatar (MGL) in the second round of the competition. While Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO) was eliminated in the quarter-final by Gwak Dong Han (KOR), the eyes of the Georgian delegation looked on Beka GVINIASHVILI (GEO) for a place in the last four. Out of breath, but still standing, GVINIASHVILI managed to keep a small advantage over BAKER Mashu (JPN), who believed until the last second that the Georgian could be penalised, which would have given him the victory. GVINIASHVILI was probably still looking for fresh air, when he entered the tatami against DENISOV in the semi-final. The Russian took that opportunity to defeat him and to enter for the second time the final of the world championships.
The surprise of the day came from the qualification for the semifinals of Komronshokh USTOPIRIYON (TJK), who has been supported by the IJF, in a quarter of the draw that that included the Olympic and world champion, Iliadis, and the 2013 World Champion, the Cuban Asley Gonzalez (CUB). If USTOPIRIYON did not have to directly face them, since they were quickly eliminated, the Dutch Noel VAN T END (NED), world number two and winner of the Samsun and Qingdao Grand Prix in 2015, was among his scalps. In the semifinal he faced GWAK Dong Han. The Tajik was more active but less effective than the South Korean, and one main attack was enough to score a yuko with a drop-seoi-nage.
DENISOV, Kirill (RUS) vs. GWAK, Dong Han (KOR)
Bronze Medal Fights
BAKER, Mashu (JPN) vs. USTOPIRIYON, Komronshokh (TJK)
LIPARTELIANI, Varlam (GEO) vs. GVINIASHVILI, Beka (GEO)
DENISOV, Kirill (RUS) vs. GVINIASHVILI, Beka (GEO)
USTOPIRIYON, Komronshokh (TJK) vs. GWAK, Dong Han (KOR)
TOTH, Krisztian (HUN) vs. BAKER, Mashu (JPN)
HILDEBRAND, Aaron (GER) vs. LIPARTELIANI, Varlam (GEO)
1. GWAK, Dong Han (KOR)
2. DENISOV, Kirill (RUS)
3. BAKER, Mashu (JPN)
3. LIPARTELIANI, Varlam (GEO)
5. GVINIASHVILI, Beka (GEO)
5. USTOPIRIYON, Komronshokh (TJK)
7. HILDEBRAND, Aaron (GER)
7. TOTH, Krisztian (HUN)