judo world championships 2011 Paris France, the hosts, ended the World Judo Championships in triumph on Sunday, when they won both the men’s and women’s team titles before a packed crowd at the Stade de Bercy in Paris.
They defeated Brazil 3-2 in the men’s final and Japan 4-1 in the women’s competition to give them a total of six gold medals and top the medal table for the first time in history since the championships were combined for both sexes. France had won four individual titles earlier in the six-day tournament.
As was fitting it was left to Teddy Riner, whose charisma and ability have dominated the championships, to end the event with a final victory. When he stepped onto the mat against Brazil to face Rafel Silva, the two countries were level at 2-2. Riner, as the winner of the heavyweight title here for a record fifth time, was expected to win quickly but the 23 year-old Silva, fifth in the 2010 World Championships, was obstructive.
He used his right arm to block the attacks of the Frenchman, who tried a variety of right-handed throws and occasionally Silva attempted a seionage (shoulder throw) himself. Although Riner was dominant, he was unable to get in a decisive throw and the bout when into extra-time for a ‘Golden Score’.
Then suddenly Riner produced the throw for which the spectators had been waiting, his favourite osotogari (major outer reaping throw) and dumped his opponent on his back for a yuko to settle the contest. The crowd would have liked an ippon but at least their hero had won and they erupted in their joy, most staying to sing the National Anthem, the Marseillaise, at the victory ceremony.
France had taken a 1-0 lead in the first bout when Dimitri Dragin defeated Leandro Cunha, who had won the silver medal in the individual competition. In the under 73 kgs class, Ugo Legrand, a bronze medallist here, beat the Brazilian Bruno Mendonca. This put France 2-0 ahead. The next contest, at under 81 kgs, was tense. Alain Schmitt had a long battle with Leandro Guilheiro, an individual silver medallist in 2010 and bronze medallist here. The bout went to Golden Score with Schmitt repeatedly trying seionage (shoulder throw) and Guilheiro also attacking. The Brazilian won on the flags 2-1 to narrow the gap.
Then in the under 90 kgs bout, Frenchman Romain Buffet was ahead until the last second of ordinary time, when, after leading with a yuko, he was knocked down by the Brazilian Tiago Camilo with kouchigari (minor inner sweep). Neither fighter was able to score in extra time and Camilo got the verdict from the officials. This then allowed Riner to have his final moment of triumph.
The men’s bronze medals went to South Korea 4-1 winners over Russia and Japan 3-2 winners over Georgia.
The women’s competition was much easier for France. Although they lost the first bout, when Priscilla Gneto was beaten on a penalty point (two shidos) by Misato Nakamura, recently crowned world under 52 kgs champion, their strength in the middle weights paid off. Automne Pavia upset the world champion, Aiko Sato, with haraigoshi (sweeping hip throw) for yuko and then Gevrise Emane, who won the under 63 kgs category here, defeated Yoshie Ueno,a repeat of the individual under 63 kgs final this week. Lucie Decosse, another French world champion, next scored with kosotogari (minor outer reaping throw) counter to give France an unassailable lead and France even won the heavyweights when Ketty Mathe scored a waza-ari for her left harai-goshi (sweeping hip throw) to beat the 2010 world champion Mika Sugimoto.
The bronze medals went to Germany, who beat South Korea 3-2, and Cuba, victorious over China 3-2.
France qualified both their men’s and women’s team for the finals of the five-a-side team competition, when the sixth and last day of the World Championships were held in Paris on Sunday.
The host nation’s opponents in the final of the women’s competition were Japan who went through the early stages only really being troubled by Cuba . The Japanese began by defeating Britain 5-0. Yuka Nishida, the 2010 world under 52 champion and runner-up here, was a quick winner over Sophie Cox, bronze medallist in this year’s European Championships. Then Kaori Matsumoto, third in the under 57 kgs category here, threw Gemma Howell with haraigoshi before Faith Pitman put up a solid performance against Yoshie Ueno, voted the outstanding contemporary female judoka by the International Judo Federation last Sunday, but the Briton still lost on penalties. Both Yoriko Kunihara, in the under 70kgs class, and Mika Sugimoto, the 2010 world heavyweight and Open champion, won comfortably.
The match with Cuba was more competitive with Japan winning 3-2, although Sugimoto was beaten by Idalys Ortiz. Although the Japanese woman knew that her country had already reached the semi-finals before she started her contest, she still tried desperately to win, repeatedly attacking with right haraigoshi (sweeping hip throw) with the Cuban replying with left hip techniques. The match went into ‘Golden Score’ but still without a decisive score on either side. Ortiz won the contest on a majority decision. This took the Japanese into the semi-final where they crushed South Korea 5-0.
In the other side of the draw, France came carefully through to the final by winning all three matches and never really being worried. Having won three individual titles earlier in the week, they had plenty of talent from which to pick. Against China in the semi-final, Priscilla Gneto knocked down Cancan He and then Automne Pavia defeated Hui Wang with a superb uchimata inner thigh throw). This gave them a 2-0 lead and then Yuhua Xu was dumped with a hip throw by the world under 63 champion Gevrise Emane, with Lucie Decosse, who won the under 70 kgs class here, hurling Fei Chen to the mat with a left uchimata. Although Olympic gold medallist Wen Tong held-down Ketty Mathe, this was only a small consolation for the Chinese who were defeated 4-1.
The men’s event, also of 16 teams, saw France have two severe battles to reach the final. After beating Poland 4-1, they met Russia and lost two of the opening three bouts, including a nimble leg-grab by Ivan Nifontov on the Frenchman Alain Schmitt. However, with the crowd behind them, Romain Buffet, the French under 90kgs competitor, defeated Kirill Denisov. This brought Matthieu Bataille, substituting for Teddy Riner, the world heavyweight champion, against Dmitry Sterkhov. In a tremendous climax Bataille won with a counter to make the score 3-2.
The semi-final against Japan was equally as tense. The Japanese had earlier beaten Britain 4-1 — the one defeat coming when Euan Burton, former world bronze medallist, had thrown Takahiro Nakai — and also overwhelmed Kazakhstan 5-0. In the match to reach the final, France led 2-1 with two bouts left but Daiki Nishimyama, second in the under 90kgs individual class, defeated Buffet. The Frenchman tried an osotogari (major outer reaping throw) but was countered and then held with yokoshiho-gatame(side four quarters hold down) for ippon. So the score was level 2-2.
Once again Bataille had to come good. This time he scored with an osotogari to make the score 3-2 and send France into the final. Their opponents there were Brazil, victorious in the other semi-final over South Korea 3-2.
Riner enters the Pantheon of History’s Greatest Heavyweights
Teddy Riner’s spectacular victory in the 29th World Judo Championships has put him firmly in the pantheon of history’s greatest heavyweights. Not only has the Frenchman won five titles, a feat that no male in any category has achieved since the event began in 1956 but he has earned praise for his athleticism and range of techniques.
Riner, aged only 22 years-old, has plenty of time to achieve a mountain of honours but few people are better qualified to assess his current standing than Britain’s George Kerr, who twice fought Dutchman Anton Geeinsk (losing both times, he quickly admits with a smile) and has since seen all the top heavyweights either as referee, coach or official.
Kerr says:”Riner is up there with all the greats, especially after Saturday when he won all his contests on ippons and with different techniques. The haraigoshi with which he won one contest was textbook stuff as was the o-uchi-gari in the final. I was also impressed with his attitude, which I thought was an inspiration. I was at the All-Japan Championships this year and it was thought that if anyone had a chance against Riner, it would not be Keiji Suzuki but Takamasa Anai. But he fought here in the the under 100 kgs competition .”(And did not even get a medal)
So how does Riner at the moment compare with the great heavyweights that he has seen in the past ? After all there have been many formidable heavyweights: Geesink, who 50 years ago this year was the first fighter to beat the Japanese at the world championships; his Dutch successor Willem Ruska, who won two gold medals at the 1972 Olympics; Yasuhiro Yamashita, who was unbeaten for eight years and won four world and one Olympic title; and Riner’s French predecessor, David Douillet, again with four world and one Olympic gold medal.
George says: “Well it is trying to compare boxers from a different era such as the Americans Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis. I do not think Riner is as skilful as Yamashita, who was superb in newaza (groundwork). It is certainly remarkable that France have produced two such heavyweights as Douillet and Riner in the last 20 years.”
In L’Equipe, the authoritative French daily newspaper, the impression was that many leading observers feel that Riner has to win the Olympic title before his status can be judged. As Kosei Inoue, the under 100 kgs Olympic champion in 2000 and an idol of Riner says:”The Games, that is a war that one has to win when all the world is expecting you to. One only becomes a champion when one has succeeded in doing that.” In 2008 in Beijing, Riner was beaten tactically but that was probably partly because of his inexperience. Certainly, he is the clearest of favourites for the Olympic title next year.
When asked to compare Douillet and Riner, Stephane Traineau, the 1991 world light-heavyweight champion, said:”If one takes David when he was at his best form in 1995-96”(he severely damaged his leg after the 1996 Games in a motor-cycling accident and did extraordinarily well to retain his title in Sydney)”and Teddy as he is today, in knowing well that one does not know Teddy’s limits, I say Douillet, for his gripping, his tactics and his power. But in five years time, I will probably say the reverse.”
The question is whether Riner will still be competing in five years time. If he wins in London next year, he may feel that he would like to benefit fully from all the sponsorships and commerical opportunities that are already pouring in. He would not benefit that much financially from continuing for a further four years , however well he were to do in competition in the build-up to the 2016 Olympics. But then he might just like the thrill of taking part in major tournament. For judo’s sake, one hopes that he will continue for many years to come.