Armen Bagdasarov was Uzbekistan’s first Olympic medallist, winning silver at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. He is now Head Referee Director for the International Judo Federation and today the technical analysis is his.

“At -81 kg two great athletes made the final but Matthias Casse, with number one status, could have expected an easier path to that point. It’s a position he has occupied for quite some time, often leading to unseeded opposition in the preliminary rounds before the heavier contests really begin; it’s earned, a reward for a lot of hard work done to reach that ranking.

However, in Tashkent, things didn’t fall quite that way for Casse, no less than two Olympic champions standing in his way. The first of them, Khasan Khalmurzaev, Rio 2016 Olympic champion, dispatched his round 1 opponent with a beautifully swift uchi-mata to reach Casse for a second round contest, Casse having earned his bye. They fought each other hard and Casse had to draw on all of his experience to grind out the win, eventually forcing penalties.

Khasan Khalmurzaev (AIN) throws with a super smooth uchi-mata in round one.

Casse went on to compete against Takanori Nagase (JPN), Tokyo Olympic champion in the category, in the semi-final and had to do the same again. Such is Casse’s presence, fully immersed in the current rules, the current momentum and the all-encompassing goal of reaching the Olympic Games in the best shape, that he was able to out manoeuvre two Olympic champions on a day when it may have looked as if he was not at his best. Make no mistake, he was at his best and few could have done what he did. Borchashvili gave him an excellent contest, a very close final, but in the end the superior application of the rules, making fewer mistakes than others, Casse triumphed and he really deserved it.

Casse (BEL) used the rules best.

Elsewhere, Lombardo (ITA) at -73 kg had a tough job to do also, competing against home ground advantage with 4 Uzbek judoka in the group, 3 of them seeded. He came through though and with all positive scores until the final where a penalty win had to suffice, again, like Casse, using the rules rather than fighting them. His emphasis was to throw but he is a top class athlete and knows his game and so when pushed, he can strategise on the go and adapt to what is needed to win. This adaptability can be a really difference between the good athletes and the best athletes.

Lombardo (ITA) was happy with gold today.

At -63 kg, Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) brought her experience, fighting through two golden score contests ahead of the final. She may not have her old conditioning yet but it is coming, event by event and she, like Casse and Lombardo, can strategise and employ the rules at the very highest level. She also never gives up, fighting right to the end no matter the length of the fight, always looking to finish with positive scores. She won very smoothly with a lot of ne-waza today, making the most of slim opportunities.

Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA).

I have one extra note for Uzbek team member Matniyazova. She beat current world champion Niizoe (JPN), throwing her for waza-ari, using it as a very fast counter while defending an attack from her. Not giving away penalties or position, she held that score to the end of the contest time and it gave the home crowd a real treat. It was impressive and even though she finished the day without a medal, she must be proud of her performance; it shows what she is capable of.”

Matniyazova (UZB) throwing Niizoe (JPN).
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