It was an exciting day on the road to the Tokyo Olympic Games, with Canada, Japan and Kazakhstan taking gold at the Hohhot Grand Prix. Held in the capital city of Inner Mongolia, China, the first World Judo Tour event of the Qualification period for the Tokyo Olympic Games saw Uta Abe, the sensational Japanese teenager, win her fourth IJF World Judo Tour event in a row to extend her winning-streak to 24 contests.
Once again, the Paris Grand Slam winner showed off her throwing skills in an impressive route to the -52 kilogram final. Then, at the semi final stage, Uta Abe saw off Angelica Delgado of the USA with two strong waza ari scores, and clinched gold after pinning down China’s Wu Shugen to signal her intention for Tokyo 2020 and this year's World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. In Baku, she will be competing alongside her brother, the reigning -66 kilogram world champion Hifumi Abe.
Speaking to Euronews, Uta Abe noted that it will be her "first really big event and there will be some nerves. But my brother will be there and with that moral support I hope that both of us can win the World Championships."
At the end of a tense all Kazakh final, the 2015 World Champion Yeldos Smetov defeated his compatriot Gusman Kyrgyzbayev in the -60 kilogram gold medal match-up with a dropping shoulder throw for a waza ari score - spectacularly gaining the valuable ranking points on offer at Hohhot.
"I faced my fellow countryman and, you know the -60 kilogram category among Kazahk judoka is considered one of the most popular divisions," said gold winner Yeldos Smetov, adding, "we have a lot of young Kazakh judoka that I am sure will conquer the world."
International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer was on hand to present the -48 kilogram gold medal to Japan’s 2014 World champion Ami Kondo.
It was all about Canada in the -57 kilogram category, which saw an all Canadian final showcasing Paris Grandslam champion Christa Deguchi defeating her teammate Jessica Klimkait by ippon - with a strangulation technique - to win her fourth event in 2018.
Two-time Grand Slam silver medalist Maruyama Joshiro of Japan saw off Korea’s former World Champion An Baul in spectacular fashion at the -66 kilogram quarter final stage before taking the gold over Mikhail Puliaev of Russia.,