This division is full of big throwers and hard fighters so it’s not easy to pick a favorite. Rather, the top fighters are 2010 World Champion Takamasa Anai of Japan, former World and Olympic Champion, Irakli Tsirekidze of Georgia, former World Champion Maxim Rakov of Kazakhstan and Henk Grol of the Netherlands, who is seeded second in the IJF world rankings.
Anai and Tsirekidze were both in Pool A, so a clash between these two was inevitable. The Georgian, who is now 29 years old and ranked 34th, managed to stag an upset by throwing the top-seeded Anai with kosoto-gari, not once but twice (the first time for waza-ari and the second, for ippon).
Elco van der Geest proved what a giant killer he is by throwing Tsirekidze for ippon with a kosoto-gari counter, during Golden Score. He had in 2004 created a major upset when he threw the great Japanese champion, Kosei Inoue, for ippon in the Olympics.
It so happened that Pool B had two Russians in it and they met in the semi-finals. Sergey Samoylovich and Tagir Khaybulaev were ranked fourth and fifth respectively. But in their quarter-final contest, it was Khaybulaev who prevailed, throwing Samoylovich with a massive standing ippon-seoi-nage.
Holland’s Grol, who was expected to reach the final, was upset by Georgia’s Levan Zhorzholiani, who, in turn, was upset by Egypt’s Ramadan Darwish, the winner of Pool C. Lastly, Pool D was topped by Kazakhstan’s Rakov.
Belgium’s van der Geest start off his semi-final bout well, doing regular attacks against Russia’s Khaybulaev. He seemed intent to play a strategic game and to win by penalties. But the Russian wouldn’t have any of it and attacked with a one-handed drop sode-tsuri-komi-goshi which caused van der Geest to fall off the wrong side. It was scored a yuko. While the Belgian player was still in shock, Khaybulaev snapped on a juji-gatame that had van der Geest tapping immediately.
The other semi-final was a purely strategic match with Kazakhstan’s Rakov outgripping Egypt’s Darwish. In the end, Rakov won by penalties.
Bronze Medal Matches
Georgia’s Tsirekidze looked tired in his bronze medal match against Egypt’s Darwish but he put in more attacks. After the Egyptian got his first shido for passivity, you would expect the Georgian to play a strategic game, putting in safe attacks to avoid a penalty.
Perhaps because time was running out and he did not want to go into Golden Score, Tsirekidze launched a risky sacrifice attack that put the Egyptian on his side for waza-ari. Initially, the score was erroneously given to Darwish but after video playback, the judges awarded it – correctly – to Tsirekidze. There was not enough time for the Egyptian to get the score back and the bronze went to Georgia.
In the other bronze medal match, the Czech Republic’s Lukas Krpalek came out strong with an extreme left hand grip. Belgium’s van der Geest refused to be clamped down and took the fight to Krpalek, attacking him with a few convincing but safe attacks, enough to cause his opponent to get a shido.
It looked like it was going another drawn out strategic fight determined by penalties when Krpalek came in for a good hip throw that scored waza-ari. There was very little time left and van der Geest had no answer. Bronze went to the Czech Republic.
Kazakhstan’s Rakov is a heavy grip fighter and the opening moments of the final match consisted of fierce exchanges of grips with Khaybulaev. If this had gone on any longer, both men were liable to get penalties for non-combativity. But the Russian, a very capable thrower, would have none of that, and the moment he had a good grip on Rakov’s sleeve, Khaybulaev came in with a massive standing sode-tsuri-komi-goshi that scored ippon.
KHAYBULAEV, Tagir (RUS) and RAKOV, Maxim (KAZ)
VAN DER GEEST, Elco (BEL) vs. KHAYBULAEV, Tagir (RUS)
DARWISH, Ramadan (EGY) vs. RAKOV, Maxim (KAZ)
Bronze Medal Fights
TSIREKIDZE, Irakli (GEO) vs. DARWISH, Ramadan (EGY)
KRPALEK, Lukas (CZE) vs. VAN DER GEEST, Elco (BEL)
TSIREKIDZE, Irakli (GEO) vs. SAMOYLOVICH, Sergey (RUS)
ZHORZHOLIANI, Levan (GEO) vs. KRPALEK, Lukas (CZE)
1. KHAYBULAEV, Tagir (RUS)
2. RAKOV, Maxim (KAZ)
3. TSIREKIDZE, Irakli (GEO)
3. KRPALEK, Lukas (CZE)
5. DARWISH, Ramadan (EGY)
5. VAN DER GEEST, Elco (BEL)
7. SAMOYLOVICH, Sergey (RUS)
7. ZHORZHOLIANI, Levan (GEO)