Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships Preview - 66kg

Japan's Masashi Ebinuma might be ranked 3rd but he's by far the best bet for the gold medal. Principally a left-handed player, Ebinuma likes to do drop morote-seoi-nage and uchimata to the left. In recent years, he has also developed a reverse seoi-nage to the left.

He won the 2013 Rio World Championships final in grand style although he was seriously injured by Kazakhstan's Azamat Mukanov, who had attacked him with a series of waki-gatames, one of which looked like it was going to result in a broken arm. (It's surprising the referee didn't stop the match and disqualify Mukanov for attempting what looked clearly like an illegal attack). Though in obvious pain, Ebinuma summoned the fighting spirit to launch an ouchi-gari that landed the Mukanov flat on his back for a massive ippon. It was obvious which player the crowd was rooting for when it roared its thunderous approval at the outcome.


The last time Ebinuma lost in an international event was the 2012 London Olympics when he was defeated by eventual champion Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia, whose unorthodox sacrifice technique caught the Japanese off guard for ippon. The Georgian has recently been fighting at -73kg though. In any event, he had a serious knee injury at the 2014 Budapest Grand Prix (via Hans van Essen of JudoInside.com)

Interestingly, Ebinuma has twice lost to Mongolia's Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar, in 2012 and 2011, but the Mongolian has already moved up to -73kg. Another player Ebinuma has had problems with is Russia's Musa Mogushkov, who twice beat in 2011. But the Russian too has moved up to -73kg.

The players that will give him the biggest challenge in Chelyabinsk are likely to be the unorthodox Russian Mikhail Pulyaev and the crafty Ukrainian Georgi Zantaraia. Ebinuma and Pulyaev have fought twice, with one win each. Ebinuma has never fought Zantaraia who has just recently moved up to -66kg (but has adapted remarkably well).

This weight category is full of really solid players who could upset the favourites. This includes Brazil's Charles Chibana and Mongolia's Davaadorj Tumurkhuleg. It seems that France's top player in this category David Larose is injured and won't be competing. He too would have been a tough challenger. Hans van Essen of JudoInside.com tells me that Japan's little-know Kengo Takaichi could be a dark horse.

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