Japan secured four gold medals on the opening day of the International Judo Federation (IJF) Paris Grand Slam as home favourite Clarisse Agbegnenou delighted the home crowd with victory in the women’s under-63 kilograms category.
Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Ami Kondo was among Japan’s quartet of winners at the French capital’s AccorHotels Arena, claiming her sixth Grand Slam title and her first in Paris.
She dispatched World Judo Masters winner Distria Krasniqi of Kosovo with a sumptuous ko-uchi-gari for ippon.
Victory sees Kondo take a major step towards selection for the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo.
The first bronze medal contest saw France’s Melodie Vaugarny beat compatriot Melanie Clement, while the second went the way of Kazakhstan’s Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh at the expense of Mongolia’s Narantsetseg Ganbaatar.
There was also success for Japan in the women’s under-52kg category with former world champion Ai Shishime defeating compatriot Natsumi Tsunoda, the World Judo Masters gold medallist, to win her third Grand Slam title.
The win puts Shishime in front of Tsunoda in the domestic pecking order as both aim to topple world champion Uta Abe in the race for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
A third shido for Tsunoda for passivity gave victory to Shishime, who still has a fair chance of selection for the 2019 World Championships.
France’s Astride Gneto won the first bronze medal contest against Mongolia’s Urantsetseg Munkhbat before Italy’s Odette Giuffrida overcame Spain’s Nina Estefania Esteo Linne.
World Champion vs Olympic Champion, what a match! The crowd was alive with a nervous and excited energy - Clarisse Agbegnenou made them wait for it, but with a clever counter she eventually gave them what they wanted - a French victory! #JudoParis2019 pic.twitter.com/UOHJR3akQM— #JudoParis2019 🥋 (@IntJudoFed) February 9, 2019
Japan’s two other gold medals came courtesy of Naohisa Takato in the men’s under-60kg category and Soichi Hashimoto in the men’s under-73kg division.
Three-time and reigning world champion Takato triumphed at the Paris Grand Slam for the fourth time as he maintained his 100 per cent winning record over former world champion Yeldos Smetov of Kazakhstan.
Takato, who has now won in Paris in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019, set a record as his victory was his ninth on the Grand Slam stage.
He countered a desperate attempt from Smetov with te-waza with 13 seconds left on the clock for a waza-ari.
Former world champion Hashimoto, meanwhile, was back among the winners on the IJF World Judo Tour for the first time since 2017 as he showed his character to grind out a hard-fought win.
He registered a much-needed gold medal by beating Hohhot Grand Prix bronze medallist Tsogtbaatar Tsend-Ochir of Mongolia.
Hashimoto, who failed to hit top spot in his three IJF outings in 2018, threw the former under-60kg competitor with a right-sided seoi-otoshi for ippon with 12 seconds left.
The men’s under-60kg bronze medallists were Mongolia’s Amartuvshin Dashdavaa and Georgia’s Temur Nozadze to the disappointment of The Netherlands’ Tornike Tsjakadoea and Israel’s Daniel Ben David respectively.
Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili defeated Azerbaijan’s Hidayat Heydarov in one of the two men’s under-73kg bronze medal matches with Italy’s Fabio Basile overcoming Kosovo’s Akil Gjakova in the other.
Under-63kg world champion Agbegnenou wrote the latest chapter in the biggest rivalry in women’s judo as the French superstar defeated Olympic gold medallist and two-time Paris champion Tina Trstenjak of Slovenia to win her home Grand Slam for the fifth time.
In a re-match of the Rio 2016 Olympic final, Trstenjak more than matched Agbegnenou in regulation time and for three minutes of golden score until the three-time world champion rolled over her opponent for a waza-ari score.
Japan had mixed fortunes in the bronze medal matches with Nami Nabekura beating Canada’s Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard and Aimi Nouchi losing to Slovenia’s Andreja Leski.
Also tasting victory today were Canada’s Christa Deguchi and Moldova’s Denis Vieru in the women’s under-57kg and men’s under-66kg categories respectively.
World bronze medallist Deguchi successfully defended her title with a win over team-mate Jessica Klimkait.
Vieru, the Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist, won his first Grand Slam final to record his country’s inaugural victory at a Grand Slam, beating Georgia’s Vazha Margvelashvili.
Japan’s Momo Tamaoki and South Korea’s Kim Jisu were the women’s under-57kg bronze medallists, while Israel’s Baruch Shmailov and Ukraine’s Georgii Zantaraia rounded out the men’s under-66kg podium.
Competition in Paris is due to conclude tomorrow.
Watch all of the action on Judo TV.