A thrilling first day of the 2018 World Judo Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, marked the second World Championships of the new Olympic cycle towards Tokyo 2020.
The star of the show was 17-year-old Ukrainian judoka Daria Bilodid. Brilliant judo throughout the day culminated in her overcoming reigning Olympic Champion Paula Pareto of Argentina to reach her first World final.
YOUNGEST-EVER WORLD CHAMPION
There Bilodid took on the defending world champion Funa Tonaki of Japan in a dream match-up, and her signature technique proved to hot too handle.
Bilodod was overcome with emotion, as both her and her mother, who is also her coach, realised she had just become Judo’s youngest ever world champion.
It was a superb moment of skill and timing, more than worthy of winning a world title. A moment that she and the sport of judo will never forget, and what an incredible experience to share alongside her mother.
“I can’t believe this, no words needed, I am very happy," said Daria Bilodid. "For me it was a very important fight. And very big pressure from Tonaki because she lost to me twice and I knew that she really wanted to win, she worked for it, so for me it was really big pressure. I am so glad that I could do it," she said.
IJF Ambassador Al Bano awarded Bilodid her gold medal.
Pareto bounced back from her defeat to Bilodid to secure the bronze medal in spectacular fashion, with an incredible performance from the veteran champion.
THIRD WORLD TITLE FOR NAOHISA TAKATO
In the men’s -60kg division, there was an incredible third world title for the brilliant Naohisa Takato of Japan. His final against Russia’s Robert Mshvidobadze was decided by a brilliant piece of footwork, scoring waza ari!
Takato’s incredible career goes from strength to strength, but he has a long way to go to beat France’s, Teddy Riner’s record. But, the reigning and 10-time world champion Riner was on hand to award Takato his gold medal, champion to champion.
"I wasn’t the top seed, because I haven’t competed very much recently. But I never lost my passion to defend the red back number," Naohisa Takato said in an interview.
MOVE OF THE DAY
Our move of the day came from Takato’s compatriot Ryuju Nagayama in the bronze medal contest. A stunning Uchi Mata put him on the podium alongside his team mate.
Day 1 certainly marked an incredible start to the thrilling 2018 World Judo Championships in Baku.