The lightweight men began with so much expectation, a guarantee of pace, dynamic exchanges and big throws from every angle, world medallists all over the draw.

Round 3 is where it all went a bit off piste. World number one, Yang Yung Wei (TPE) should have met the virtually impregnable Takato (JPN) in the quarter-final. However Serikbayev (KAZ) did exactly what was necessary to overturn fate, using a sumi-gaeshi to conclude in golden score. That counter was only possible though because Yang made the mistake of avoiding ne-waza, staying too upright after his own failed seoi-nage attempt, not putting his hands down to signal the end of the tachi-waza phase. That was a costly mistake. Resting at the end of your own attack before the referee or opponent are finished with the episode is short-sighted, at best.

Someone who never seems to rest is the Georgian Sardalashvili, a junior world champion, a grand slam winner and still only 19.

Aghayev’s (AZE) third round contest was fought with Saddiki (MAR) and he led with a waza-ari from a kata-guruma very early on, almost converting into the hold down too. However, the fight continued and at 3:33 and with no indication of what was about to happen, Saddiki put in an incredibly well placed uchi-mata attack and threw the Azeri for ippon. To be honest, both looked shocked.

Saddiki's (MAR) uchi-mata

Seeing one of the African nations reach the placings is fantastic. The Moroccan brought the essence of judo truth with him, proving that anything can happen. From a score down against one of the best in the world he simply did judo, purely employing the principles as he was taught to.

Saddiki (MAR)

The Bayramov (AZE)-Takato (JPN) contest, also in round 3, almost went in a similar direction. Prior to the draw many people predicted the Japanese champion would sail through and the draw didn’t really change their minds, other than perhaps the hope that Yang may give him a little push, but we saw that wasn’t to be.

Takato, with just 30 seconds gone, moved as if to attack but it was undefined and not as sharp as we have come to expect. Bayramov capitalised but with limited control. He piled in to the number 8 seed and initially it looked like he’d scored ippon but on review, with the control in question, no score was given and the contest then ran on almost to full time, until Takato found a space, or rather made a space, forcing the scoreboard to flash in his favour.

Takato overcomes Bayramov (UZB)

Round three also deleted Smetov and his world and Olympic medals, not to be added to today. Smetov and others didn’t even have the chance to fight for bronze medals as with the quarter-final repechage system, now in place for several years, reaching the quarter-final is the all-important marker ensuring athletes’ names make it to the permanent archives.

The quarter-finals put Takato, Garrigos (ESP), Baratov (UZB) and Verstraeten (BEL) through to the semis but from there could anyone have guessed who would make the final two? I doubt many did, except perhaps Quino Ruiz, Garrigos’ coach. He looked thrilled but also completely vindicated when from a waza-ari each, which was already something, Garrigos did the unthinkable and threw Takato to finish the match and end a 4 year period unbeaten. Takato’s phenomenal international record is, well, phenomenal!

Garrigos (ESP) throws Takato (JPN)

Let’s say here, before delivering the rightful praise to Garrigos, that every time a champion of Takato’s level, not that there are many of them, puts themselves on the line, they risk everything, certainly in the eyes of the media. To not lose can become a focus above winning and that’s very difficult to manage. Hats off to Takato; this kind of career is only to be celebrated regardless of today’s single loss.

Fransisco Garrigos has been absolutely rock solid all day! He has approached every contest calmly but with purpose, looking confident with the tactics and the positions he needs to be in to throw. He was comfortable in ne-waza and intelligent when under pressure, hence coming from a score down with Takato to score twice and take the win.

The first bronze medal contest, between Sardalashvili (GEO) and Verstraeten was exactly what we thought it would be with the young Georgian proving true to his country’s style profile, looking for the deep cross grips, pick-ups and unusual entries. The Belgian brought strategy, maturity and an obvious adherence to the work done analysing his opponent. It was reminiscent of Tato and Matthias in terms of approach and also energy.

Sardalashvili (GEO)

The attack rate was high throughout, from both athletes, so much so that we barely noticed the time pass. At 2:20 into golden score Jorre Verstraeten almost finished it with some sharp transition into a sode-guruma-jime attempt. It was a narrow escape and at that point the Georgian decided not to play on the floor any more. His opponent was clear the win could come there and so he aimed for ne-waza at the end of each exchange without losing any focus in the standing periods.

In the end, the pressure from the unorthodox gripping was too much to handle after 5 minutes of extra time and Verstraeten had to stomach a third penalty. It didn’t feel like a penalty-driven contest, much to the athletes’ credit. The bronze heads to Georgia with its teenage owner.

The second bronze medal had an unexpected suitor in the shape of Naohisa Takato. The 4-time world champion can not have been satisfied with being in that position and came forward to face Harim Lee (KOR), ready to ensure the Japanese flag would still fly over the -60kg podium. However, following an uneventful day, the Korean held his ground, attacked safely and often and chipped away at the superstar. It was a good plan and eventually, deep into golden score Takato received a third shido and Lee became a world medallist!

In the final Garrigos and Baratov approached their opportunity as if it were just that, an opportunity to capitalise on having a superb day, reaching a world final which was never meant for them. They worked and enjoyed and the judo family gained a totally new world champion.

The intention was deployed subtly but clearly; Baratov pinning sleeves and trying to push to the edge. It began as a negative strategy and Garrigos didn’t want to play that game. He worked to stay inside the rules and clamp himself into position to be able to throw but the gripping was exhausting and so different from his other contests.

At full time they had a shido apiece. They didn’t get too far into golden score before the Spanish fighter finally found his moment, having taken control of the gripping and the position, millimetre by millimetre. He constructed an advantage cleverly and totally in keeping with the rest of his day, showing the importance of technical and tactical revision.

Garrigos, from a two-sleeves grip, ducked his head under Baratov’s arm, pushed and rolled and formed an unorthodox kata-guruma for which he was rewarded with a waza-ari. He’s the first Spanish world champion since Nikoloz in 20XX and after the performance he gave today, he deserves it, really deserves it. Fransisco and Quino were a team perfectly in sync, sharing the day and taking each step together.

Gold for Spain wasn’t a phrase common in the pre-event whisperings but it happened and the athlete can be satisfied that he is now every inch a world champion, something he will now have been for the rest of his life.

Medals, cheques and flowers presented by Vice President of the Olympic Council of Asia, Mr Otabek Umarov, Minister of Youth Policy and Sports of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Dr Adkham Ikramov, President of the Uzbekistan Judo Federation and Vice President of the Uzbek NOC, Mr Azizjon Kamilov

Bronze Medal Fights (-60 kg)

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