The Japanese team will come with a number of Olympic Games athletes to the Grand Slam of Tbilisi. Among the athletes the last man who was nominated for the Games Hifumi Abe. In a year with very few judo competitions, Hifumi Abe battled against Joshiro Maruyama for the U66kg spot on the Japanese Olympic team, which could easily be described as the “match of the year” 2020. Hifumi Abe earned the spot in the Japanese team for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Internationally, Abe had sterling results, winning the 2017 and 2018 World Championships. However, against his domestic rival, things started to go south after his second World title.
Just a few months after his brilliant performance at the 2018 Baku World Championships, Abe would go on to lose to Maruyama at the Osaka Grand Slam, where he was thrown with yoko-tomoe-nage for waza-ari in Golden Score. Abe lost his third consecutive match to Maruyama at the 2019 Tokyo World Championships.
Abe was clearly emotional after his victory, breaking down in tears moments after being awarded the win and during his post-match news conference.
He joins younger sister Uta, the two-time reigning world champion at -52kg, in the Japan team for Tokyo 2020.
The Grand Slam in Tbilisi will be the first event where Abe is appearing since the battle with Maruyama.
He will be joined in the team by Shoichiro Mukai U90kg, U100 Aaron Wolf will fight and +100kg Hisayoshi Harasawa will show that also he can win Grand Slams. The previous Grand Slam Kokoro Kageura won in Tashkent. Shori Hamada will fight U78kg. In Tashkent the Japanese team captured nine gold medals including six titles for the women.
Last week a training camp was organised in Georgia in advance of the event.