by Rory Jiwani Olympic Channel
Abe Hifumi won an epic one-off bout with Maruyama Joshiro to claim Japan’s last judo spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday. Abe wins last spot in Japan’s judo squad for Tokyo 2020 in bout that stopped a nation and attracted thousands of viewers worldwide.
In the famed Kodokan Institute in Tokyo, the 23-year-old two-time -66kg world champion eventually won 20 minutes into golden score with an o uchi gari throw.
The match was primetime viewing in judo-mad Japan with many seeing it as tantamount to an Olympic gold medal decider, such is the nation’s superiority in this weight class.
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.
Abe was the more aggressive of the two with Maruyama handed the first shido penalty with 1:20 remaining.
Abe missed with an attempted shoulder throw inside the last 30 seconds but it remained scoreless with the match going into extra time.
Reigning world champion Maruyama – who held a 4-3 head-to-head advantage going into the meeting – just missed with a side shoulder throw of his own but both men struggled to make any attacks count and were given shidos nearly two minutes into golden score.
Abe’s attempted leg sweep 3:16 into golden score was just repelled as an epic tense stalemate continued.
After 8:35, there was a delay as Abe had a cut on his finger attended to thus giving both judoka a welcome break having spent almost all of the previous 12 minutes on their feet.
Shortly after resumption, Abe came closest to breaking the deadlock as he hooked Maruyama’s leg but his rival just managed to withstand the attack.
With almost 12 minutes gone in golden score, Abe received his second shido meaning one more penalty for either would spell the end of the contest.
Abe, four years his opponent’s junior, had been the slightly more aggressive of the two throughout but this turned into a gruelling stamina test with neither man able to make the decisive move.
There was another delay at 18:19 into golden score as Abe suffered a nosebleed with a piece of cotton wool placed in his nostril to stop it.
Eventually with almost exactly 20 minutes on the clock, it was Abe who landed an o uchi gari throw which – while not the cleanest – was enough to score and leave Maruyama crestfallen.