Japan sending powerhouse teams when judo comes home to Tokyo

Fortunately for the host nation, this powerhouse group of athletes is eager to pick up the pace of the moment in their sport, which originated in Japan and was introduced to the Olympics 57 years ago at the last Tokyo Games.

The competition in the martial arts created by Jigoro Kano in the 19th century is one of the most anticipated events in Tokyo this summer. Judo’s combination of athletic force and cerebral grace is nothing short of aspirational identity of the Japanese spirit, its essence filtered through decades of patient study and training to synchronize technique and strength, merging body and spirit Can you

The Gentle Way – a literal translation of judo – is fundamental to the Japanese Olympic movement, but judokas accused of preserving the tradition do not always think in such enlightened terms.

Just ask Naohisa Takato, who will compete in the men’s 60 kg (132 lb) category on the first day of the Olympics.

“It was quite a humiliating experience for me to end up with a bronze medal in Rio,” Takato said. “At the Tokyo Olympics, I’ll definitely grab the gold. With any type of judo, no matter how crude, I’ll get the gold medal at the awards ceremony and play ‘Kimigayo’ (Japan’s national anthem) “

As if this eight-day tournament wasn’t already significant enough, players will compete in the Nippon Budokan, the sacred arena previously built for Olympic judo events. Japan won three of the four gold medals available in 1964 at Budokan, now considered the spiritual home of the martial arts.

“It is such a fortunate opportunity to participate in the Olympics in Japan where judo was born,” Japanese 100 kg (220 pond) Olympian Aaron Wolfe recently told Japan’s Sportiva magazine.

This is true for every player on Japan’s loaded team, which is expected to run a historic tally of 39 gold medals and 84 total medals in judo, more than any other sport in its long Olympic history.

How Much Stack Is This Japanese Lineup? The All Japan Judo Federation did not send any members of its Olympic team to the World Judo Championships in Budapest this summer, yet Japan’s backup still came home with six gold, four silver, two bronze – more than any other nation. Far more medals than – and a perfect performance to win mixed team competition.

This led to interesting post-match scenes such as in the men’s 66 kg (145.5 lb) division, where Japan’s Joshiro Maruyama defeated Olympic-bound Manuel Lombardo to win the gold medal. The Italian is ranked No. 1 in the world, but Lombardo said he was discouraged from competing in Budapest because losing a Japanese second stringer could have a negative impact on his move to Tokyo.

Maruyama missed the Olympics last December after an epic, winner-take-all match – the first of its kind in Olympic team history – against Hifumi Abe in the Kodokan, who won 20 minutes into the gold score. Japanese TV was watched by millions of fans, and millions of fans worldwide watched it online.

Maruyama and Lombardo hugged after their match, sharing the camaraderie and sportsmanship for which their game is justifiably renowned.

“Since Lombardo is fighting in the Games and I didn’t qualify, I wanted to give a big boost to him,” Maruyama said via a translator.

big man showdown

All of Japan’s stars will be tested, and not all are gold medal favorites. The rest of the world has dynamic champions, and the tallest is 6-foot-8 French heavyweight Teddy Riner, who won two Olympic gold medals and went undefeated in 154 consecutive matches for a decade from 2010 to 2020, until he last Lost the year twice. Including a surprise defeat to Japan’s Kegura Kokoro.

Kokoro would not be at the Olympics, however: Hisayoshi Harasawa, who lost to Riner in the Olympic finals in Rio de Janeiro five years earlier, was selected for another shot at the Games.

Rinner will try to win a medal at the fourth consecutive Olympics. Three consecutive gold medals would equal Tadahiro Nomura’s Olympic judo record.

all together

The tournament also featured the first mixed team event in Olympic history, taking place on 31 July, the final day of competition. Twelve nations with three men’s and three women’s teams will compete in six-match sequences, making a proper team dynamic for a highly individual sport.

rising stars

While Japan strives to dominate the region, other countries are taking judo’s roots to new lands – particularly in women’s judo. Notable Olympic contenders are Lorke Marie Olsen, the first Danish female Olympian, and Ebony Drysdale-Daley, the first Olympic judoka from Jamaica.


Associated Press writer Kantaro Komiya in Tokyo contributed to this report.


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