Tuesday, August 25, 2015

-66kg Competition Report

After a somewhat uneventful -60kg competition yesterday, judo fans were looking forward to a more exciting -66kg competition. The category was full of big throwers like Ukraine's Georgii Zantaraia, Azerbaijan's Nijat Shikhalizada, Russia's Kamal-Khan Magomedov and Mikhail Pulyaev, Japan's Masashi Ebinuma, Brazil's Charles Chibana, Uzbekistan's Rishod Sobirov and Mongolia's Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj and Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar. As it turned out, all of the top favorites lost, with only Pulyaev making it to the semi-finals.

In pool A, the top favorite was of course Zantaraia, who is capable of doing the most dynamic throws. But he crashed out in his first fight, against Israel's Golan Pollack, who had earlier defeated Spain's David Ramirez Ramos with a hand technique for waza-ari. In the Pollack-Zantaraia fight, the Georgian came in with one of his unorthodox pick ups but was countered by the Israeli for a waza-ari. He was not able to get back the score before the time ran out. Next, Pollack fought France's Loic Korval who had thrown him for a yuko. In the dying moment of their match, Korval racked up enough shidos to earn himself a hansoku-make, giving Pollack the unexpected win . That brought him up against Italy's Elio Verde, whom he narrowly defeated with hand counter which scored yuko, for a place in the semi-finals.

Pool B was without doubt the hardest grouping with Magomedov, Khasbaataar, Ebinuma, Chibana and Sobirov all in the same pool. Amazingly, all got knocked in the preliminaries and in the end, it was the relatively unknown Baul An of South Korea who emerged victor. He won his first bout, against Cuba's Carlos Tondique with two drop sode-tsuri-komi-goshi for waza-ari-awasatte-ippon. Then, he defeated top-ranked Dzmitry Shershan of Belarus with a drop sode-tsuri-komi-goshi for yuko. After that, he faced his toughest opponent, Magomedov, whom he defeated expertly with a mix of strategy and opportunism. An attacked him relentlessly, not giving the Russian any opportunity to attack and when the Russian finally cornered him at the edge of the mat, he dropped underneath for a drop ippon-seoi-nage that scored waza-ari. That brought him up against Sobirov who had seen a return to form, having soundly defeated Ebinuma for ippon earlier. An was on a roll, and managed to beat Sobirov with reverse seoi-nage for waza-ari, and a place in the semi-finals.

In Pool C, the player most likely to stop Pulyaev was Japan's Kengo Takaichi but he unexpectedly lost to Spain's Sugoi Uriarte in Golden Score. Pulyaev soundly defeated France's David Larose in his first fight, with morote-seoi-nage. He then easily defeated Peru's Jesus Gavida Mendoza with an armlock for ippon. After that, he beat Germany's Sebastian Seidl with a pin for ippon, to earn his place in the semi-final. 

In Pool D, the top player of note was Mongolia's Davaadorj, who made it all the way to the quarter-final, but was stopped by a relative unknown, Yeldos Zhumakanov of Kazakhstan. The Kazakh's first fight was against Andreas Kassas of Cyprus, whom he beat with drop sode-tsuri-komi-goshi and drop morote-seoi-nage for waza-ari-awasatte-ippon. Then, he beat Tunisia's Houssem Khalfaoui with drop ippon-seoi-nage for ippon. His first real challenge was Britain's Colin Oates, but he beat him rather quickly with a cross-grip drop morote-seoi-nage. That brought him up against Davaadorj, whom he beat in style with two counters, one against kosoto-gake and one against uchimata, for waza-ari-awasatte-ippon.

Semi-Final

An is both a thrower and a tactician and in his semi-final fight against Pollack, he chose to be the latter, beating Pollack to the punch, so to speak, and never giving the Israeli a chance to settle for an attack. In the end, he won with three shido penalties.

The more experienced Pulyaev soundly defeated newbie Zhumakanov by first throwing him with a cross-grip seoi-nage for waza-ari and then pinning him for waza-ari-awasatte-ippon. And with that, he achieved a perfect track record of winning all his matches by ippon.

Bronze

Sobirov, a double world champion at -60kg, who has been having some difficulty adjusting to his new weight class, showed how good he can be by throwing Zhumakanov with a classic osoto-kosoto combination that scored waza-ari. This was enough to win him the bronze medal, his best result to date in his new weight class.

Davaadorj played the perfect tactical match, and was ahead on penalties, until the dying seconds when he became complacent and got thrown with a last-ditch ouchi-gari by Pollack earned the Israeli the other bronze.

Gold

The final was an very tactical match with Pulyaev proving the superior tactician for most of the match and was ahead on penalties when towards the end of the match, perhaps due to fatigue or complacency, he allowed An to catch up and causing the match to go into Golden Score. An proved to be the fitter of the two and immediately launched three consecutive attacks on Pulyaev resulting in a shido for the Russian. And with that South Korea got its first gold medal of the tournament.

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