Japan world judo team double boosts 2016 Rio Olympic hopes
Japan will head to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year full of hope and expectation after completing a superb world championship week in Astana on Sunday.
Astana: Japan will head to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year full of hope and expectation after completing a superb world championship week in Astana on Sunday.
Having already dominated the individual categories, winning gold in six out of 14 divisions, Japan carted off both the men`s and women`s team titles on Sunday.
And three years on from their London Olympics disaster, the future looks bright for the Land of the Rising Sun.
In 2012, Japan suffered what for them was a humiliating judo competition, winning only one gold medal through Kaori Matsumoto and failing to claim a single men`s title.
They finished fourth in the medals table behind Russia, France and South Korea, but normal service has since been resumed.
They topped the medals table in all three World Championships since the Olympics and this time more emphatically than ever.
The last time they were this dominant was their home world championships in Tokyo in 2010, where they took 10 out of 16 gold medals, including six from eight by their women with three of the finals being all-Japanese affairs.
What`s more, the current crop are mostly young, such as women`s under-78kg world champion Mami Umeki, 20, and men`s under-81kg winner Takanori Nagase, 21.
Other world champions Shohei Ono, 23, and Ryunosuke Haga, 24, are both still young, while at 26 and 27 respectively, Misato Nakamura and Matsumoto could still have two more Games in them.The first is a three-time world champion at under-52kg and the second twice a world champion and once Olympic winner at under-57kg.
The teams Japan put out on Sunday were also a mix of first and second choice fighters and the women proved to be terrifyingly superior, winning every single bout against strong countries in Brazil, China, Mongolia and Poland.
The men could not match that and were in fact run close in 3-2 victories against Germany and South Korea in the semis and final respectively, but nonetheless they did enough to win the tournament.
Germany and Russia won bronzes in the women`s event while Mongolia and Georgia did the same in the men`s.
Yet despite their dominance, Japan will never be fully satisfied as long as they do not win the men`s heavyweight title.
Right now, such a hope would seem a million miles away as France`s record eight-time world champion Teddy Riner proved again in Astana that he is in a class of his own.
For the second year in a row Ryu Shichinohe met him in the final but the Japanese fighter simply never looked like he believed himself capable of success.
Having had the likes of Yasuhiro Yamashita, Naoya Ogawa and Shinichi Shinohara dominating heavyweight judo in the past, Japan has struggled for almost 10 years to find someone capable of challenging at the very top.
The likes of Daiki Kamikawa, Keiji Suzuki and now Shichinohe have all proved incapable of stopping the Riner juggernaut.
Japan may well dominate the medals table in Rio but as long as Riner`s reign continues, the sports founding fathers will remain unfulfilled.