In round 2 he launched Channyeong Kim (KOR) for ippon with his two-sleeve o-soto-gari at the midway point in the contest. He faced a stiffer challenge from Matteo Piras (ITA) in round 3 but a driving seoi-nage 30 seconds into golden score gave him a waza-ari and sent him through to the quarter-final.
There, Abe was drawn to face the current world number 1 Denis Vieru in a mouth-watering contest. What perhaps should have been a challenge turned out to be a breeze for the Japanese star. He threw Vieru twice in 40 seconds, first with o-soto-gari and then with sode-tsurikomi-goshi, to score two decisive waza-aris and leave the top seed stunned. Abe’s semi-final opponent Erkhembayar Battogtokh (MGL) put him under a bit of pressure but another waza-ari score from an o-soto-gari attack was enough to defeat the Mongolian and book his place in yet another final.
Battogtokh’s counterpart, the world number two Baskhuu Yondonperenlei, is undoubtedly one of the most difficult fighters in the category to beat, owing to his awkward style, impressive stamina and strong techniques. Though plenty tried, none could stop his march towards the final.
The Mongolian survived a scare against Cheng (TPE) in round 2. He initially scored waza-ari with sumi-otoshi, but his opponent levelled the score almost immediately using ko-uchi-gari. Yondonperenlei then quickly put a stop to the revolt with a low, driving o-uchi-gari to end the contest. He faced Kokolayev (ISR) in round 3, where he used a sankaku turnover to secure kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame and another ippon win.
The quarter-final stage saw him take on the in-form Willian Lima (BRA), in what turned out to be a thrilling contest. The fight went deep into golden score, with Lima ahead on penalties but the Mongolian saw an opportunity on the ground and took it. He used a sankaku turnover once more and then freed his entangled leg to pin the Brazilian and book his place in the semi-final. There he met France’s Daikii Bouba, the Jerusalem Masters 2022 silver medallist. Their 7-minute contest was ended by a classic, Mongolian-style uchi-mata which scored waza-ari for the number 2 seed and booked him in for a shot at the king.
Abe took only 10 seconds longer than his sister did in her final to take yet another top spot on the podium. He threw Yondonperenlei with his trademark misdirecting o-soto-gari to score another highlight-reel ippon and an incredible 11th grand slam gold medal. Like his younger sibling, today Hifumi Abe showed no signs of weakness and is the undeniable favourite to retain his Olympic title in Paris next year. Only time will tell if anyone can find a chink in his seemingly impenetrable armour.
The first of the bronze medals was settled between Denis Vieru (MDA) and Daikii Bouba (FRA). Bouba picked up two penalties to Vieru’s one after only 90 seconds, so had to push forward to stay in the running. Though Vieru came under pressure in the following minutes, he kept his cool, eventually turning Bouba over on the ground and holding him using yoko-shiho-gatame to come away with his 10th grand slam medal.
Battogtokh came up against Hekim Agammamedov (TKM) in the second bronze medal contest. Agamammedov was a revelation in Tokyo, defeating Baku Grand Slam 2023 winner Najafov (AZE) in round 2 and knocking out Lima in the repechage with some brilliant ne-waza. Against the Mongolian he attacked more strongly in tachi-waza, while Battogtokh preferred to hunt for the win in ne-waza. In the second minute of golden score, though, Agammamedov reversed the Mongolian straight into a hold down and kept his nerve to take the victory and his first ever IJF World Tour medal. It is also the first IJF World Tour medal for Turkmenistan in over 5 years, something the 24-year-old can be extremely proud of.