Sunday, August 23, 2015

-60kg Competition Report

Two top players were missing from the -60kg competition: the No. 1 ranking Orkhan Safarov of Azerbaijan and former World Champion Naohisa Takato of Japan. However, the gold and silver medalists from the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships, Ganbat Boldbaatar of Mongolia and Beslan Mudranov of Russia, were there. In addition, up-coming-players like Uzbekistan's Sharafuddin Lutfillaev and South Korean's Kim Won-Jin were competing as well.

In Pool A, the top seed was defending World Champion Ganbat Boldbaatar of Mongolia but he had not won an IJF circuit event since winning the world title in Chelyabinsk. Still, it was he who was most likely to top this pool. His first match, against Bekir Ozlu of Turkey, was a lacklustre affair which he won by yuko. His next match, against Israel's Artiom Arshanki, was worse and he had to scrape through by penalties. Ganbat redeemed himself in his next match, when he threw Brazil's Felipe Kitadai with sumi-gaeshi for ippon. This earned him a place in the semi-finals.

In Pool B, Uzbekistan's Sharafuddin Lutfillaev is considered to be one of the most promising up-and-comers. He is not that well-known but he did well to win the Samsun and Tblisi Grand Prixs this year. The more well-known Amiran Papinashvili of Georgia was in his pool though. As it turned out, it was the even lesser-known Rustam Ibrayev of Kazakhstan who emerged top of this pool. Ibrayev began his campaign by throwing Bulgaria's Yanislav Gerchev with a tomoe-nage for yuko, which was enough to win him the match. He then defeated Ecuador's Lenin Preciado with osoto-gari, also for yuko. This brought him up against the formidable Papinashvili but he handily defeated the Georgian with a sumi-gaeshi for waza-ari. He had another tough fight after that, against South Korea's very tactical Choi In-Hyuk. Ibrayev was down on penalties when he pulled off a tewaza counter which scored waza-ari in the last minute.

In Pool C, South Korea's Kim Won-Jin was the top favorite. If Japan had entered Takato, he would have been the top favorite but Japan's entrant for this weight class is the lesser-known Shishime Toru (ranked 11th). Shishime proved that he was the right choice though by topping the pool. First, he beat Mohamed Jafy of Morocco with a dazzling uchimata for ippon. Then, he threw Taiwan's rising star, Tsai Ming Yen, with the same technique, except this time it was only for waza-ari. His next fight, against Brazil's Eric Takabatake was a hard fought one and he ended up wining by penalties. His biggest challenge however, was South Korea's Kim, whom he also defeated by penalties.

In Pool D, Russia's Beslan Mudranov was the one to look out for. He hadn't competed a whole lot since getting the silver medal at the last world championships though. He was, however, the current European champion. In his pool was home favorite Yeldos Smetov (ranked 9th) who didn't seem to be of the same stature but who had the benefit home ground advantage. Mudranov didn't seem to be focused and in his very first fight, got countered by Uzbekistan's Diyorbek Uroboez for ippon. Smetov, in contrast, had his eyes on the prize and fought with style and strategy. He won his first match, against Finland's Juho Reinvall, via hansoku-make after the Finnish player accrued four shidos. But as if to prove he had throwing capabilities as well, Smetov proceeded to smash his second opponent, Saudi Arabia's Eisa Majrashi, with a cross-grip side-takedown for ippon. He had a slightly harder time with Mexico's Nabor Castillo, who took him to time, though he won with two solid throws for yuko (one with drop ippon-seoi-nage and the other with a drop tai-otoshi). His next match, against Uroboez promised to be even tougher but Smetov took him apart, throwing him with a very stylish side-takedown for waza-ari, followed with a drop sode-tsuri-komi-goshi for yuko.

Ibrayev had a tough time with the defending champion Ganbat, who was more experienced and more tactical. Ibrayev was actually losing on penalties when he struck back with his favourite sumi-gaeshi. It looked like Ganbat had landed on his front and the throw was not initially given a score but it was later awarded a yuko.

Smetov had an equally hard time with Shishime but managed to edge ahead with a neat side-takedown for yuko. He then held on to the lead and was dangerously close to getting his fourth shido when time ran out. He too was in the final, which would be an all-Kazakhstan affair.

Shishime, perhaps incensed by his defeat in the semi-final, unleashed all his fury onto Brazil's Kitadai and smashed him with an osoto-gari for ippon.

Kim had a much harder time with the canny Ganbat but the South Korean managed to win with a very low and delayed drop ippon-seoi-nage which scored yuko.

With both player playing it safe, the final was a bit of a letdown. In a purely tactical match, Smetov emerged victor through a single penalty given to less experienced Ibrayev. The duo had created history, winning the gold and silver for Kazakhstan.

Ibrayev, Smetov, Shishime & Kim

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