August 26 - Mongolia's Mönkhbatyn Urantsetseg ensured a spectacular start to the judo World Championships here today as she denied Japan's Haruna Asami a third successive title in the under 48 kilogram category.
The 23-year-old had never even won a medal in a major global competition before this but she showed few nerves in taking gold with an juji-gatame in immobilising Asami, winner of this title at Tokyo in 2010 and Paris 2011.
It was quite a turnaround in her fortunes, as the last time they met in competition, Asami came out on top in the semi-finals of the Paris Grand Slam tournament in February.
Asami, 25, was competing in only her third tournament of the year, and came in to the Championships unbeaten having won in both Paris and Tokyo Grand Slam.
Urantsetseg had already dashed the hopes of the enthusiastic home crowd in the semi-final when she had beaten Brazil's Olympicchampion Sarah Menezes, who lost by two yuko scores in an arena in the shadow of the legendary Maracanã Stadium, which is due to host the final of next year's FIFA World Cup and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics here.
Menezes did have some consolation in the bronze match playoff when she beat North Korea's Kim Sol Mi with a yoko-guruma when there was only a second left on the clock.
The other bronze medal had been won by Belgium's Charline Van Snick, who beat Cuba's Maria Celia Laborde, matching her performance at London 2012.
But the day belonged to Urantsetseg, who became only the second Mongolian judoka to claim a world title, following Khashbaataryn Tsagaanbaatar, winner of the men's under 66kg gold medal at Rotterdam four years ago.
"I am very happy to have won the World Championships, especially in a place where the audience are so excited," said Urantsetseg, a quarter-finalist at last year's Olympics where she earned brief notoriety following a wardrobe malfunction.
"My fight against Sarah was very difficult, the Brazilian is very strong.
"Hopefully this will motivate the rest of the Mongolian team."
But teammate Amartuvshin Dashdavaa was unable to make it a Mongolian double when he was beaten in the final of the men's under 60kg event by Naohisa Takato, who gained some measure of revenge for Japan following Asami's defeat.
It was the first time a Japanese judoka had won the lightweight title since Paris in 1997 when Tadahiro Nomura had triumphed.
This victory was no surprise as the 20-year-old, regarded as the new great hope of the sport in Japan, had already won the Grand Slam event in Paris and the World Judo Masters in Tyumen and cadet and junior world titles earlier in his career.
Takato won by shido scores having only earned one penalty while Dashdavaa had two to his name.
It was, remarkably, the 113th gold medal won by Japan in the World Championships since it launched in 1956, extending their lead over the next best nation, France, who have 41.
Still a maturing talent, Takato's victory brought a smile to a sport in a country which is reeling from a series of embarrassing setbacks, including allegations of physical abuse against Olympic-level female athletes and financial mismanagement which earlier this month led to the mass resignation of leading officials at the All Japan Judo Federation.
For Takato, however, he is looking only to the future.
"I want to write my own story in the sport," he said.
The bronze medals were won by Azerbaijan's Orkhan Safarov and South Korea's Kim Won Jin, who had beaten Brazil's London 2012 bronze medallist Felipe Kitadai in the first round.
To watch the latest action on JudoTV click here.
Photos©IJF Media by T. Zahonyi
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]