Though Japan continues to dominate in certain weight categories on the world stage, it has been some time since they have had a consistent performer in the -90kg category. Enter Sanshiro Murao, who has already been named as his country’s pick for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. In addition to winning the 2022 Jerusalem Masters, he boasts a world championship bronze and grand slam silver from this year. He arrived at the Tokyo Grand Slam 2023 as the number 2 seed and demonstrated exactly why he merits that coveted Olympic place, with a flawless performance.
Final, Luka Maisuradze (GEO) vs Sanshiro Murao (JPN)

Faced with Talibov (AZE) in his first contest, Murao launched the Azeri with a perfectly-directed ura-nage to score ippon in less than 90 seconds. In round 3 against Grigorian (UAE), he scored two waza-aris in as many minutes with his trademark ashi-waza to move confidently into the quarter final. There he met 6-time grand slam winner Mikhail Igolnikov (AIN), whose idiosyncratic uchi-mata had already helped him knock out former world champion Noel Van T End (NED). Murao managed the fight expertly, producing one of the biggest throws of the day: a thunderous cross-grip o-soto-gari which floored Igolnikov in the second minute and drew audible gasps from the adoring home crowd.

Gold medallist, Sanshiro Murao (JPN)

Another tough opponent awaited the Japanese judoka in the semi-final in the form of the 2023 world silver medallist Christian Parlati (ITA). They produced a thoroughly entertaining contest, with Murao coming close to scoring multiple times. In the end, a score wasn’t needed as Parlati picked up a third and final shido in golden score.

Gold medallist, Sanshiro Murao (JPN) and his young fans

To top it all off, Murao’s opponent in the final would be none other than the current world champion, Luka Maisuradze (GEO). The Georgian did not make life easy for himself; he needed golden score to come through all of his preliminary contests. In his round 2 bout he threw Gurevitch (ISR) for ippon in the opening overtime exchange with a nice o-soto-gari. He was on similar time against Nyman (SWE) in round 3, scoring waza-ari with a strong tsuri-goshi. Maisuradze took a tactical victory in his quarter-final match with Sherov (KGZ), before his endurance was pushed to its limit in the semi-final against 2015 world champion Donghan Gwak (KOR). Their 9-minute contest ended with a failed sumi-gaeshi attempt from the Korean which allowed the Georgian to secure a hold down from which there was no energy left to escape.

Bronze medal contest, Mikhail Igolnikov (AIN) vs Donghan Gwak (KOR)

The final saw a clash of styles with minimal grip fighting. Maisuradze was content with a round-the-back grip, while Murao was more than happy to keep his opponent at a distance using the inside lapel and he gave the Georgian very few opportunities in the contest. The Japanese man attacked more often, causing Maisuradze to pick up two shidos. Needing to be more offensive in golden score, the Georgian over-reached for his grip and Murao threw him cleanly with uchi-mata for ippon. Grand slam gold number 4 for Murao; Maisuradze will have to wait a bit longer to win his first ever grand slam gold.

Bronze medal contest, Axel Clerget (FRA) vs Christian Parlati (ITA)

Igolnikov took on Gwak in the first bronze medal contest. This was the first time the Korean had made it to a final block in over 3 years but he couldn’t quite bring home the medal as it took only 27 seconds for him to become the latest victim of Igolnikov’s uchi-mata. This was grand slam medal number 8 for him. Gwak can take heart from his best performance in years.

The other bronze medal was won by Parlati in a comfortable tactical victory over Axel Clerget (FRA), his second bronze and fifth medal overall. 36-year-old Clerget continues to perform well at the highest level but will be disappointed he didn’t come away with more silverware today.

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Mohammed Meridja, Education & Coaching Director of the International Judo Federation, and Mr Takahiro Nishida, Vice President of All Japan Judo Federation

Final (-90 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-90 kg)

See also