Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Brass tacks for Japanese judoka

Pint-sized Ryoko Tani will be the star attraction this weekend at the All Japan Selected Judo Championships in Fukuoka as the nation’s top judoka vie for a place on the Olympic squad for this summer’s Beijing Games.
Tani became the first judoka to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals when she defeated Frenchwoman Frederique Jossinet at the 2004 Games in Athens, and, barring a spectacular dip in form at the Fukuoka International Center on Sunday in the 48kg class, she remains a shoo-in for a ticket to China to try for a threepeat.
Olympic berths for all but the men’s +100kg class will be decided this weekend, with the team’s official unveiling scheduled to follow the final bout on Sunday night.
On Saturday, judoka in the men’s -60kg, -66kg, -73kg and -81kg and women’s -70kg, -78kg and +78 kg classes will compete.
On Sunday, competitions in the men’s -90kg, -100kg and +100kg will be held, along with the women’s -48kg, -52kg, -57kg and -63kg divisions.
Victory won’t automatically earn a judoka a spot on the Olympic team, although it should go a long way to convincing the selectors, especially if you’re a six-time World Champion and four-time Olympic medalist like Tani.
The fiercest competition looks set to take place in the men’s +100kg segment, with world champion Yasuyuki Muneta, Sydney Olympic gold medalist Kosei Inoue and Satoshi Ishii, gold medalist at the Judo World Cup in Austria in February, all battling it out for the one and only berth in their class.
However, since the Olympic representative from their class will be chosen on April 29 at the All Japan tournament in Tokyo, the pressure on them will continue for a few more weeks following Fukuoka.
Japan had its best-ever Olympics in Athens, snatching 37 medals in total, including eight gold medals in judo.

Copyright: C.G. Williams and Beijing Visitor

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