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Japan re-focused after record world judo feat

other Updated: Nov 11, 2010 13:30 IST

AFP
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Japan are taking nothing for granted at the Asian Games judo competition which opens on Saturday, despite their record haul of 10 world championship gold medals just two months ago.

"Basically we aim to conquer all divisions but Asia is strong," men's head coach Shinichi Shinohara said.

"Each division has an array of two or three competitors from other countries who could finish high at the worlds."

Japanese women's head coach Ryuji Sonoda said: "China and South Korea entered strong competitors. The contest will be a yardstick for our campaign toward the London Olympics."

Japan, which gave the traditional combat sport to the world, field seven world champions, including four men, in eight divisions for each sex.

The four-day competition, which starts with the heaviest divisions, gives Japanese judokas a chance to redeem themselves.

At the 2006 Doha Games, they failed to top the gold medal table for the first time since 1986 when South Korea grabbed six titles against Japan's two as judo made its Asiad debut in Seoul.

The women's competition debuted in 1990.

China won five golds, all in the women's divisions, in 2006 while Japan took two men's and two women's titles and South Korea grabbed four men's titles.

Japanese men further suffered from a record-low Olympic haul of two medals in Beijing in 2008 and an unprecedented title drought at the 2009 world championships before this year's four-gold comeback.

"We will aim to win four gold medals at least (in Guangzhou)," said the men's coach.

The women's coach has set the bar higher, saying: "You can't win in the world if you don't win in Asia. We will work hard and aim for gold in every division."

The Japanese men's team features Daiki Kamikawa, who beat French giant Teddy Riner in the open-weight final in Tokyo, denying him a record fifth world title.

Kamikawa, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is to fight in the +100kg heavyweight where Beijing Olympic silver medallist Abdullo Tangriev aims to improve on his bronze medal from Doha.

On the women's team is Mika Sugimoto, who won the world +78kg and open titles by beating Qin Qian in the absence of another Chinese Tong Wen who dominated heavyweight contests since 2005 but was banned for doping in May.

Sugimoto, 26, is to compete in the +78kg heavyweight alone where Qin is raring to avenge her Tokyo defeat before home fans.

"I think about nothing but winning the title. We are carrying on the momentum of the world championships," Kamikawa said.

Japan's men's -100kg world champion Takamasa Anai faces a tough field including Beijing Olympic gold medallist Tuvshibayar Naidan of Mongolia and two former world champions Kazakhstan's Maxim Rakov (2009) and South Korean Hwang Hee-Tae (2003) who is also defending Asiad champion.

In the men's 73kg, Japan's Hiroyuki Akimoto, who dethroned two-time world champion Wang Ki-Chun in Tokyo, may battle it out again with the South Korean, the Beijing Olympic silver medallist.

World champion Rishod Sobirov of Uzbekistan and Beijing Olympic champion Choi Min-Ho of South Korea are in the men's 60kg field.

Olympic women's -78kg champion Yang Xiuli of China faces a challenge from Japan's Akari Ogata who settled for the bronze at the worlds after winning the prestigious Paris Grand Slam event.