Enjoying judo a the top level is easy. It’s spectacular, inspiring and educational all at once. So many contests are note-worthy but every once in a while one contest catches the eye particularly.

The second round at -66kg gave us a fantastic contest between Huseynov (AZE) in blue and Emomali (TJK) in white. Huseynov came straight out with a double kata-guruma attempt but was met with a clean block and immensely strong but unsuccessful transition. It did show what junior world champion Emomali might be capable of on the floor.

Huseynov in blue, Emomali in white.

This first exchange was indicative of the whole contest with both men looking for ippon throughout, no games, no overly defensive positions, just the will to throw and to win. Each used the movement of the other expertly to find new entry points, new directions and new chances, both were dangerous with the direct pick-ups and the counter-attacks.

Just after the first minute there was a small gripping infringement from white but that shido changed nothing in terms of attitude and pace and the fight continued in the most entertaining way. They twisted their bodies and felt the spaces and neither would relinquish the belief that he could win.

At 3:29, in an episode that could have gone either way, blue went for a pick-up from behind white’s deep cross-grip but white defended and attacked simultaneously. If you blinked at that point you’d have missed the conclusion. Hunting the equaliser, white cross-gripped again, deep over the shoulder with his left and hooked in with a driving o-uchi-gari. Blue was ready though and slipped his attacked leg behind white, turned his own body and powered Emomali to the floor with a ko-soto-tani-otoshi hybrid for ippon. Two seconds remained on the clock. Emomali was left with no choice but to chase the contact and that is always the risk when behind in a fight.

Getting thrown like that for such a huge ippon carries no shame at all; sometimes it’s the only way, to go forward, to give everything, to give the whole of yourself to the final chance.

It was a great match and with a huge will and effort from both judoka. Really it was a celebration of judo and of fighting spirit.

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