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19810826_More favourites than ever before

    The period of the absolute superiority of the Japanese judokas at world championships, Olympic Games and major international tournaments has been quite some time. But it certainly has never been so difficult as today to name the favourites for the medals at the World Championships at Maastricht (Netherlands). This had already become obvious at the European Championships in Debrecen (Hungary) at which none of the favourites had succeeded. Prior to the European Championships ten major tournaments were staged in Europe between January and May. The first of these was in Paris and the last took place in London shortly before the continental championships in Debrecen. In between there were such star-studded events as those in Tbilisi, Budapest, Prague and Postdam.
    Japan and Canada both had entered the biggest number of judokas for these tournaments. Professor Saburo Matsushita from Tokyo's Nihon University and one of Japan's national coaches during the tournament in Potsdam said on the reasons for the massive representation of the Japanese: "We were unable to take part in the Moscow Olympics though we had hoped to be there right up to the last minute. Therefore we could not make an exact assessment of the performances of our judokas and it was very difficult to obtain a correct appraisal of the athletes from other countries. Because we wanted to improve our performance at the Maastricht World Championships on the 1979 World Champuonships in Paris we were compelled to make use of all opportunities of measuring skills above all with the strong Eastern European judokas".
    But the Japanese did not send to the European tournaments those judokas who in the past were very successful or who will be included in the team for the Maastricht World Championships, and instead entered young, still unknown athletes. In Paris, the team was said to be made up of candidates for the 1984 Olympic Games. and the result was four category wins by Fujiki, Kondo, Nishida and Saito. In Prague and Budapest Japan was represented with what Professor Matsushita Called a "B" selection. At these tournaments Asami (60 kg) and Hoshi (86 kg) won the gold medals in their categories. In Potsdam, Japan's team was billed as a student selection. Saito and Student World Champion Hosokawa left the mat as winners. In Tbilisi the judokas from Japan could not match these successes. Of the 18 Japanese judokas who had entered the tournament (seven in the heavyweight alone) only Nose managed to win a second place in the middleweight, and Hamada had to be content with a third place in the extra-lightweight. The Tbilisi tournament was clearly dominated by the team of the hosting Soviet Union, which won all categories. It is indeed difficult to conclude from all this whether the Japanese judokas will be successful in Massstricht. World heavyweight champion Yasuhiro Yamashita is the only one who since January has a sure place in the Japanese team for the World Championships. He attended the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games as a guest and used his opportunity to study his rivals there. Yamashita confirmed his excellent form with a clear victory over Sumio Endo in the Open category of All Japan Championships in late April, whom he defeated in the final after only three minutes. This success must be valued even higher considering that Yamashita had been injured for some time.
    It seems certain that also the four World champions from Europe will compete in Maastricht, provided they do not suffer from injuries, and try to defend their titles. Thierry Rey of France and Nikolai Solodukhin of the Soviet Union won Olympic Gold medals in Moscow. Detlef Ultsch of the GDR and Tengis Khulbuluri of the Soviet Union also won medals at these Games. These four judokas, however,  did not live up to their reputation at the European Championships in Debrecen. Ultsch was already eliminated in the preliminary round after two defeats. The Olympic Champions Jurg Rothlisberger of Switzerland, Angelo Parisi of France and Dietmar Lorenz of GDR will nit compete at Maastricht as they have ended their competitive careers,
    The other medal winnners of the Moscow Games look certain to be among the favourites also in Maastricht, though all of them suffered defeats at the pre-championships tournaments.
    The Canadian judokas have emerged from the background over the last few months, above all Docherty with tournament victories in Budapest and at the international championships in Munich (Federal Republic of Germany). In London, Felice Mariani of Italy who was third at the 1979 World Championships and 1980 European Champion scored his first category win. And his compatriot Rosati seems able to pse another strong challenge after his victories in Munich and London.
    The French judokas, however, appeared rather non-committal at the tournaments and after their appearances at the beginning of this year in Paris have not come out in strength of any other tournament. But at this national championships they showed impressive performances. Each category had been entered by more than 30 sportsman. The best performance was delivered by Thierry Rey who, however, has meanwhile changed over to the half-lightweight category.
    The judokas from the host country Netherlands must still be regarded as unknown quantities. The candidates for the national squad were banned during the preparatory period and the championships will show how they managed to get over that to be in top form for the event.
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