There was a brief period when Japan's -73kg had three world champions -- Hiroyuki Akimoto, Riki Nakaya and Shohei Ono -- jostling for pole position in that country.
Together, they dominated the -73kg category at the World Championships from 2010 to 2015. In 2010, Akimoto won the gold. In 2011, it was Nakaya's turn. Then in 2013, Ono took over (there was no World Championships in 2012 because it was Olympic year). In 2014, Nakaya won the gold again. By 2015, it went back to Ono.
Although Akimoto seemed to be out of the picture after 2010, he had not retired and would occasionally beat the other two. He defeated Ono in the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam and defeated Nakaya as recently as last year at the 2016 Paris Grand Slam.
|Akimoto remained a challenger long after his 2010 World gold but retired after failing to make the Rio 2016 team.|
|Hashimoto has not been beaten in the past year and a half and is currently ranked No. 1 in the IJF World Rankings.|
So, now we're back to three top dogs for the -73kg category in Japan again. Officially, Hashimoto is the highest ranked -- he is currently No. 1 in the IJF World Ranking -- and by late August could very well become the world champion.
Ono, who has not competed in any IJF World Tour events since the Olympics, is currently ranked 15th but that placing does not reflect how dominant he really is in this category. Ask any player or coach and they will tell you he is still the most feared player at the -73kg division.
|Double World Champion Nakaya may not be the player he once was but he's still a contender in Japan's -73kg class.|
But three is not enough. Not in Japan anyway. News has just emerged that triple World Champion Masashi Ebinuma, will be joining their ranks in the -73kg division.
|Will Ono stick to the -73kg division? Here he is training with heavyweight World & Olympic Champion Teddy Riner.|