For just a moment let’s look at the big medal-winners in world ranking order: double world medallist Korrel (NED), world silver medallist Reyes (CAN), double world champion Fonseca (POR), world champion Adamian (AIN), world silver medallist Kukolj (SRB), double world champion Sherazadishvili (ESP).
With all that in mind, Korrel can be tipped the nod for reaching the semi-final, obeying the current ranking. He passed Sherazadishvili on penalties, Iddir by ippon having been a waza-ari down, and Fara (AUT) by waza-ari at full time. In the semi-final he faced a red back patch, Adamian’s and there his trajectory changed. That contest went to two penalties apiece and eventually closed with a waza-ari in he board against Korrel.
Speaking of Fara, he began his day in the form we like to see, aggressive, uninhibited and with massive throws just waiting to be unleashed. Anvarzoda was the first to receive one, in an exchange no-one could have been certain about until the moment of impact.
Don’t try to ‘Out-Fara’ Fara 😉🇦🇹— Judo (@Judo) October 26, 2023
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Fara won fast by two no-nonsense scores against Bashaev (BRN) and then took the quarter-final loss. His repechage contest could have spelled trouble as fighting an athlete on their home ground comes with added complications and Kostoev (UAE) has pedigree but Fara looked perfectly recovered and came out again ready to throw. A massive obi-tori-gaeshi with Kostoev desperately defending, knowing what was coming, took not too many seconds off the clock. That ippon put Fara into a bronze medal contest in the perfect frame of mind.
In the second half of the draw, Kyle Reyes topped the group but he lost out to Mai (GER) who also beat Marko Kumric (CRO) before losing to virtually unknown Frenchman Marc Ngayap, the first semi-finalist from announced from pools C and D.
Meeting Ngayap in their semi-final was Aleksandar Kukolj (SRB), the same Serbian who took out the Portuguese double world champion in the round of 16. Elnahas (CAN) fell to him too, a competitor with an incredible feeling for strategy, using all his experience to beat judoka who come with all kinds of styles. He find solution quickly and it’s captivating.
The first bronze medal contest was fought by Aaron Fara and France’s Ngayap and it didn’t take long at all to assign the medal to its owner. Fara refers to his special technique as a front uchi-mata or the Adler. He chose it, applied it, scored ippon with it and left the tatami again almost before the contest could begin.
Fara said, “I think I fought very well today, how I always want to fight. We prepared very well. Ngayap is strong but I was ready today. Yvonne and I have our way and I’m sure I can be ready to win a medal, beating the best at the European Championships next month. This medal today is for my mum. She’s always so proud."
The second bronze medal was contested by Shady Elnahas and Michael Korrel. There was a lot of back and forth with no decisive moments and that brought penalties but neither Korrel nor Elnahas are judoka who give up on their missions and in the dying seconds of the contest the Canadian got his hips in and finished with a harai-goshi for ippon.
The final could have been a tactical masterclass between the coiled spring that is Adamian (AIN) and the metaphorical chess player, Kukolj but it was in the very first exchange that Adamian came in from a long way out and applied a reaching ko-uchi-gari that drove Kukolj on to his back for ippon. The world champion takes gold in Abu Dhabi too.