For a few months now, under the leadership of its head coach and international legend, Kosei Inoue, a breath of fresh air is blowing on Japanese judo, which has garnered extraordinary results during the last major events on the IJF World Judo Tour. Yet the category of heavyweight is still dominated, in the men's division, by the French giant, Teddy Riner. Will Japan be able to turn the tide during this Open World Championships, or will Riner reap his tenth world crown? This is one of the many questions that will arise here in Marrakech.
Japan came to Morocco with three athletes: 2 men (Ojitani Takeshi and Kageura Kokoro) and 1 woman Asahina Sarah, plus a few sparring partners. This morning, part of the delegation trained in the brand new Flam Morocco club. For Laurent Mathieu (FRA), who is one of the two judo teachers of the club with Ahd Gassous, the arrival of the Japanese is a great moment: "It is a pleasure and a pride to welcome the Japanese delegation. We opened the club just two months ago. We are happy to see them training here."
For Hicham El Assoudi, President of the Marrakech-Safi Judo League and President of the club, it is also a great moment: "For us Marrakech people, to welcome the Japanese is incredible. Judo comes from Japan. We have been dreaming for so many years of Japanese judo and they are here at home! It's extraordinary. We are very proud to welcome all delegations from around the world. Marrakech is a host city. This event will really advance judo locally and nationally and will allow us to broaden the base of Moroccan judo."
While club officials were ecstatic, the Japanese team was showing its new face; a smiling and relaxed face actually, the training taking place with music, in a good natured atmosphere. By Saturday, the pressure should go up a notch, but what is certain is that these exchanges are a pleasure to see and show the new face of international judo.
More about the Open World Championships:https://www.ijf.org/news/show/why-the-openweight-world-championships-matters-in-2017