The men’s -73kg division had two favorites: South Korea’s Wang Ki-Chun and Japan’s Hiroyuki Akimoto. Both are former world champions (with Wang holding the title twice in 2007 and 2009 and Akimoto in 2010).
Going into the competition, Wang (No. 1 in the IJF rankings) was the favorite although Akimoto (No. 3 in the IJF rankings) had beaten him in the last World Championships in Tokyo last year. The first three matches progressed smoothly for Wang. Then, he got smashed for ippon with an uchimata by France’s Ugo Legrand in the first 15 seconds of the match. As winner of Pool A, Legrand was to square off against the winner of Pool B, Dex Elmont of Holland.
The winner of Pool C, Riki Nakaya had a relatively easy first three matches but his fourth one was a bruising battle with the unorthodox Mongolian, Nyam-Ochir Sainjargal, who took him to Golden Score. Nakaya must have decided another three minutes with Sainjargal was too draining and promptly smashed him with a massive osoto-gari for ippon.
Next up, Nakaya fought Kazakhstan’s Rinat Ibragimov in an even harder fight that also went to Golden Score. Nakaya and Ibragimov traded several attacks which failed to score and then, when the Kazakhstan player reached over for a belt grip, Nakaya threw him with massive te-guruma for ippon.
Nakaya’s semi-final match would be against his teammate Hiroyuki Akimoto, who had fought solidly throughout the day. Akimoto’s route the semifinal was not as tough as Nakaya’s but he did have a tough fight with Mansur Isaev of Russia, whom he beat through penalties.
The first semi-final, between Legrand and Elmont was largely a tactical affair with both fighters playing it relatively safe. The match went to Golden Score and when time ran out on that, Elmont won by a unanimous decision. The other semi-final was more interesting as both fighters really tried to throw each other. Nakaya scored a crucial yuko by throwing Akimoto with osoto-gari.
Bronze Medal Matches
It was obvious that Uzbekistan’s Navruz Jurakobilov was wary of Akimoto’s drop seoi-nage. He played such a defensive game, he eventually got a shido. Akimoto piled on the pressure by scoring a yuko with ouchi-gari. It was at this point that Jurakobilov decided to throw caution to the wind and attacked Akimoto fearlessly, and this change in style worked. He pressured Akimoto into doing another one of his drop techniques and promptly countered it with kosoto-gari for waza-ari to win the match.
The other bronze medal match was won by Legrand who gave the French audience something to cheer for. A spinning uchimata against Kazakhstan’s Ibragimov failed to score but it was a good attack. Ibragimov responded with a sumi-gaeshi. This was quashed by Legrand, who proceeded to pin him for 15 seconds for a yuko score — enough to win the match.
Nakaya had shown throughout the day that he was a big thrower but in his final match against Elmont, he played it safe, making small drop attacks – enough to earn his opponent shido. Several scrappy attacks later and Elmont got another shido. This meant Nakaya was up by a yuko. He fought smartly until then end and earned Japan yet another gold medal.
ELMONT, Dex (NED) vs. NAKAYA, Riki (JPN)
LEGRAND, Ugo (FRA) vs. ELMONT, Dex (NED)
NAKAYA, Riki (JPN) vs. AKIMOTO, Hiroyuki (JPN)
Bronze Medal Fights
JURAKOBILOV, Navruz (UZB) vs. AKIMOTO, Hiroyuki (JPN)
IBRAGIMOV, Rinat (KAZ) vs. LEGRAND, Ugo (FRA)
JURAKOBILOV, Navruz (UZB) vs. VAN TICHELT, Dirk (BEL)
IBRAGIMOV, Rinat (KAZ) vs. ISAEV, Mansur (RUS)
1. NAKAYA, Riki (JPN)
2. ELMONT, Dex (NED)
3. JURAKOBILOV, Navruz (UZB)
3. LEGRAND, Ugo (FRA)
5. AKIMOTO, Hiroyuki (JPN)
5. IBRAGIMOV, Rinat (KAZ)
7. VAN TICHELT, Dirk (BEL)
7. ISAEV, Mansur (RUS)