Tuesday, 9 August 2016
Shohei Ono insisted small fighters could produce big judo after ending Japan’s painful men’s gold medal drought by winning the under-73kg category at the Rio Olympics on Monday.
Although fighting at light-middleweight, Ono, 24, said his triumph would inspire smaller judoka to achieve greater feats.
“When people look at Japanese judo a lot of the attention goes to the heavyweight classes,” he said.
“I was able to demonstrate even in this weight you can have a strong and beautiful performance.”
Whilst many people would describe Ono’s style as classical upright Japanese judo, the fighter himself believes it is all of his own making.
“If people from outside Japan see my judo and think it’s good, of course I’m very happy about that,” he said.
“For me, it’s the Ono style of judo. What I wanted to do was demonstrate that the Ono style is the strongest judo style — the number one judo style.
“That certainly was the goal entering the Olympics. I was able to demonstrate that and I’m very happy.
“I’m hoping children practising judo in Japan will be inspired and motivated by that and even if they are small they can do big judo.
“Overseas fighters tend to be bigger but even if you’re smaller, you can do big judo and be successful pursuing your style.”
Ono was majestic all day, pinning Costa Rica’s Miguel Murillo and throwing Emirati Victor Scvortov for the full ippon score with an inner thigh throw.
In the quarter-final he faced powerful Georgian pick-up specialist Lasha Shavdatuashvili, but struck quickly with a hip wheel to score a decisive half point waza-ari.
In the semi-final against the surprise of the day, Dirk Van Tichelt, he used the stomach throw to win by ippon.
Shavdatuashvili and Belgian Van Tichelt went on to win the bronze medals.
Japan’s normally dominant men had been in turmoil after failing to win a gold medal in London four years ago.
Ono admitted he felt added pressure to perform.
“People were expecting me to get gold, so yes I did feel pressure,” he said.
“Achieving that is not easy but I did that, and as part of the team I took part in the competition with a great sense of pride.”
Ono won the world title in 2013 but a year later was disqualified from defending his crown for his part in a bullying scandal at his university.
He bounced back in 2015 to win a second world gold and hopes were high that he would deliver in Rio.
After all five other Japanese fighters to compete so far had won bronze, Ono finally delivered the much sought after gold medal.
Source by: AFP