The third and final day of the Osaka Grand Slam 2018 saw the judo celebrities of Japan meet the public and sign autographs, bringing joy to their many fans.
On the tatami Henk Grol of The Netherlands was our Man of the Day. The multiple World and Olympic medalist at -100kg took his first major title at +100kg, defeating a high calibre field on his way to the final.
There Grol met long time rival and Olympic Champion at -100kg Lukas Krpalek of the Czech Republic. This was their ninth time of meeting and Grol extended his lead to 6-3.
But after having lost twice in a row this was Grol's first victory over Krpalek in their new weight category. A swift ko-uchi for a waza-ari score from Grol gave him his first gold medal on the IJF World Judo Tour since 2014 and his travelling Dutch fans something to cheer about.
"It’s an incredible feeling to win the Grand Slam in Osaka. In the heavyweights it’s very special. To win this tournament is so hard with all the Japanese, normally they take the gold medals here so yeah, it’s an unbelievable feeling," said Henk Grol in an interview.
Woman of the Day
Our Woman of the Day was Ruika Sato of Japan. The home crowd were excited for this hotly anticipated contest. In the final she defeated her teammate and 2015 World Champion Mami Umeki of Japan.
Performing a technically brilliant turnover, Sato levered her opponent’s arm to score ippon with a pin to take gold in the -78kg category. This is her fifth Grand Slam title, and her third in Japan.
"I would really like to participate in the World Masters, which is coming up in December, if I get selected as a national representative. And if I go, then I definitely want to end the year with a victory," said Ruika Sato in an interview.
Explosive judo from Japan's Mukai and Wolf, technical win for Cuba's Ortiz
Paris Grand Slam champion Shoichiro Mukai of Japan had a phenomenal day and his explosive judo gave the home crowd a lot to cheer about. In the -90kg final, he defeated Dutch dynamo Noel Van T End and he was absolutely thrilled.
This is Mukai's second Grand Slam title in 2018 and he surely now has his sights set on becoming number 1 in Japan.
In the women's heavyweight division, it was back-to-back titles on the IJF World Judo Tour for 2012 Olympic Champion and World Championships silver medallist Idalys Ortiz of Cuba.
Cuban legend Ortiz, who won the Cancun Grand Prix in October, took a tactical victory over Asian Games winner Akira Sone of Japan in the +78kg category, winning the gold medal in Osaka after the Japanese judoka was disqualified following her third shido.
In the men's division at -100kg, Aaron Wolf of Japan took the gold medal. He was calm and ready, overshadowing his Canadian opponent Shady Elnahas, who had had a fantastic day, but an explosive ouchi gari snapped him back to reality. A slim victory, but one that saw the former World Champion stand up on the podium.
Move of the Day
Our Move the Day was by Portugese powerhouse Jorge Fonseca. Always one to put on a show, he didn’t disappoint - he launched Brazil’s Rafael Buzacarini for an enormous sode and then passionately celebrated to the appreciative Japanese crowd.
And after another thrilling tournament in the traditional home of judo, Japan, all eyes will soon be on the much-anticipated 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.