Having not lost a match on the IJF World Tour since the Osaka Grand Slam 2019, where she was beaten in an extremely close match by Amandine Buchard (FRA), Uta Abe will forever carry the weight of expectation of the judo world, for the remainder of her career, but you wouldn’t know it. The 4-time world champion and current Olympic champion is an unstoppable force in her weight category and handles that expectation with ease. Once again, at the Tokyo Grand Slam 2023, none of her opponents could become the immovable object and inflict a rare defeat, as she breezed through to the final of her home grand slam for the 6th time in as many tries.
Final, Astride Gneto (FRA) vs Uta Abe (JPN)

A bye in round 1 meant that Abe’s first contest of the day was against Zagreb Grand Prix 2023 winner Pereira (BRA). The Japanese starlet used the kata-sankaku hold that won her the Olympic title, but the Brazilian escaped at 17 seconds. Not to be deterred, Abe immediately secured another hold and eventually scored a second waza-ari in the last 20 seconds of the match. Against Bishrelt (UAE) in the quarter-final, she took almost half the time to throw her opponent with sode-tsurikomi-goshi for ippon. Even less time was needed for her to dispatch number 4 seed Gefen Primo (ISR); Abe threw the Israeli with an off-the-grip uchi-mata and landed in yoko-shiho-gatame to finish the job.

Gold medallist, Uta Abe (JPN)

Astride Gneto (FRA) was the last person standing between Abe and her 8th grand slam gold medal. The French fighter was aiming for her 4th grand slam gold and began by throwing Borisova (AIN) with harai-goshi for a waza-ari in round 1. She then took a tactical victory over Toro Soler (ESP) in round 2. Against Pimenta in the quarter-final, Gneto’s dominant kumi-kata caused the Brazilian to pick up three shidos in under two minutes to hand over the victory. This set up a semi-final with top seed Reka Pupp (HUN), where Gneto was able to throw with her favoured o-uchi-gari to score waza-ari and, despite picking up two shidos under pressure from the Hungarian, held on to book a final match-up with the -52kg queen. Could she do anything to stop the oncoming storm?

Bronze medal contest, Sosorbaram Lkhagvasuren (MGL) vs Reka Pupp (HUN)

That question was answered within 1 minute in the final. A seemingly innocuous ko-uchi-gari from two sleeves from Abe had Gneto flat on her back before she could impose herself in the contest. Grand slam gold number 8 was in the bag for the 23-year-old and she already looks assured to bring home a second Olympic title in Paris next year. Time is running out for her opposition to find a solution to her brilliance.

Bronze medal contest, Larissa Pimenta (BRA) vs Gefen Primo (ISR)

Pimenta and Primo battled it out for the first of the bronze medals. Primo had beaten Pimenta in all three of their previous meetings and the result this time was no different. Pimenta was awarded a third and final penalty after one minute of golden score, handing the Israeli her 6th grand slam bronze medal.

The second bronze medal match was a fight between Pupp and Sosorbaram Lkhagvasuren (MGL); a close contest settled in the final 10 seconds by an excellent ura-nage from the Mongolian which scored ippon. This win was a first for Lkhagvasuren over Pupp in 3 meetings and earned her a 5th grand slam medal.

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Her Imperial Highness Princess Tomohito of Mikasa, International Judo Federation Ambassador, and Ms Tina Trstenjak, Refereeing Supervisor, Olympic, World & 3 times European Champion

Final (-52 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-52 kg)

See also