STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Uta and Hifumi Abe: Japan's judo double act

They are Japan's unstoppable brother-sister act. The two rising stars of a sport this country holds in a vice-like gr...

Posted: Dec 3, 2017 6:35 PM
Updated: Dec 3, 2017 6:35 PM

They are Japan's unstoppable brother-sister act. The two rising stars of a sport this country holds in a vice-like grip.

The "Abes."

Two explosive young athletes who are taking the sport of judo by storm and look set for greatness as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games appear on the horizon.

Hifumi and Uta Abe, 20 and 17 respectively, both took gold medals at the Tokyo Grand Slam on Saturday, whetting the appetite of fans who hope to see both competitors on top of podiums again in the future.

READ: Inside the Kodokan -- judo's spiritual home

Japanese dominance is the the norm in judo and the opening day of this two-day event was no different. The hosts claimed all seven gold medals on offer, with four of the finals contested between two Japanese judokas.

In total, the hosts won 22 of the 29 medals available on Saturday.

But it was the Abe siblings who stole the show, with Uta cast in the headline role.

She cemented her reputation as the sport's wonderkid, adding a first grand slam triumph in the -52kg category to the junior world title she picked up earlier this year.

Uta delivered a crushing victory over compatriot Rina Tatsukawa with an ippon seoi-nage after just 45 seconds of the contest.

"I am very, very happy to have won this Tokyo Grand Slam," she said after collecting her medal. "This was my main target for the year, and with it being one of the last events of 2017, it's a great way to end the year."

READ: Life through a lens with a judo photographer

Uta became the youngest ever winner of a grand prix event in February, coming out on top in Dusseldorf while she was still in high school.

And her exploits spurred on her older brother, who came into the weekend as a world champion in the -66kg category and lived up to his billing.

"I saw my sister win her final before I fought. Her victory meant I was even more motivated to win gold," he said after a hard-fought win over Joshiro Murayama in the final.

Hifumi has now won his last 28 matches, although his admiration for his prodigious younger sister is clear.

"If she had won and I hadn't, then even though I'm the older brother, it would have been me looking up to her," he said.

The Abe siblings boast rich judo heritage. Their uncle is Tadahiro Nomura, who won three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the -60kg category between 1996 and was crowned world champion in 1997.

READ: Japanese judo icon Kosei Inoue

Global success is demanded in Japanese judo. The fans who watched on from their seats inside the arena had their loyalties split between the country's numerous elite-level judokas.

Bands of spectators displayed their allegiances by wearing the colors of their home judo clubs, with some bunched together in groups of up to 200.

And when their favored competitor took to the tatami, they screamed their names with increasing vigor as the day wore on.

But the crowd was denied the one bout they had all come to see.

Soichi Hashimoto is the reigning -73kg world champion and one of the most talented judokas on the planet.

He has made the division his own over the last 12 months, winning the Tokyo Grand Slam in 2016.

Fans were anxious to see how he would fare against the returning Shohei Ono, a two-time -73kg world champion who took time out of the sport to concentrate on his studies after winning the Olympic title in 2016.

Ono was selected for the Rio Games ahead of Hashimoto and a first showdown between the two was set to be the headline act of this grand slam weekend.

But it wasn't to be. Ono, dubbed the "thrower of throwers", was forced to withdraw from the competition with a knee injury ahead of his second match, while Hashimoto was forced to settle for a bronze medal.

It was an anticlimactic end to the event for both athletes, with Ono in particular cutting a dejected figure in the stands.

"I realized that this is my ability, this was the best I can do today," said the 25-year-old Ono. "I am starting from zero."

Japanese men's head coach Kosei Inoue was unconcerned by Ono's withdrawal, saying its more important for him to be in peak condition ahead of major competitions such as the 2019 World Championships, which will be staged in Tokyo.

"He made the correct judgment in pulling out," said Inoue, himself a three-time world champion and an Olympic gold medalist in 2000.

"He doesn't need to peak right now. I want Ono to be in top shape and awe the judo world when I matters."

Terre Haute
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 50°
Robinson
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 45°
Indianapolis
Overcast
47° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 40°
Rockville
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 39°
Casey
Overcast
47° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 42°
Brazil
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 50°
Marshall
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 50°
Chilly and mostly cloudy night.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Truck hits house in Greene County

Image

Fifth person facing charges in a local murder investigation

Image

Police are looking for Putnamville inmate

Image

Death investigation in Knox County

Image

NORTH DAVIESS SECTIONAL

Image

NORTH KNOX SECTIONAL

Image

LINTON SECTIONAL

Image

WASHINGTON SECTIONAL

Image

VIN LIN SECTIONAL

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 368740

Reported Deaths: 9688
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1714375392
DuPage22100605
Lake20157508
Will17862426
Kane16211346
Winnebago9857179
St. Clair7814217
Madison7021154
McHenry6049120
Champaign594528
Unassigned4765270
Peoria443368
McLean404134
Rock Island388990
Sangamon374563
Kankakee331379
Macon283251
Kendall259528
Tazewell255953
LaSalle232063
DeKalb225142
Coles186438
Williamson183259
Boone179025
Adams176716
Clinton170926
Vermilion165310
Jackson151126
Whiteside132125
Randolph123815
Knox123116
Ogle11477
Effingham11394
Marion97617
Grundy9367
Franklin9308
Monroe90128
Stephenson9007
Jefferson89446
Bureau88117
Morgan86824
Henry8317
Christian80329
Macoupin77110
Union75125
McDonough72017
Lee6691
Fayette66622
Crawford6456
Shelby63812
Douglas6168
Livingston60810
Montgomery59515
Woodford58014
Logan5684
Saline5399
Warren4878
Bond4849
Iroquois47519
Fulton4731
Wayne47312
Jo Daviess4727
Jersey46721
Cass45911
Perry42116
Moultrie3965
Carroll3849
Johnson3400
Richland33016
Lawrence3248
Pike3234
Clay30213
Clark29811
Hancock2984
Mason2981
Washington2971
Greene28115
Cumberland2706
Jasper26010
White2594
De Witt2515
Mercer2446
Piatt2340
Pulaski2331
Wabash2185
Ford18711
Menard1731
Edgar1518
Marshall1483
Massac1472
Henderson1210
Alexander1171
Hamilton1142
Gallatin1062
Brown1050
Edwards1050
Scott1020
Putnam880
Schuyler881
Stark832
Calhoun670
Hardin530
Pope411
Out of IL90

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 157713

Reported Deaths: 4092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25392789
Lake13805355
St. Joseph9277163
Elkhart8890135
Allen8278230
Hamilton6215113
Vanderburgh588261
Tippecanoe375915
Hendricks3302133
Monroe326638
Porter322049
Johnson3151129
Delaware297074
Clark296762
Vigo264840
Madison240595
LaPorte226658
Cass225522
Warrick195265
Kosciusko187826
Floyd180167
Howard164066
Bartholomew143358
Marshall140026
Dubois139626
Wayne132130
Henry128430
Grant127839
Boone124550
Hancock119944
Noble117434
Jackson114416
Dearborn98028
Morgan94840
Lawrence90837
Daviess89334
Gibson88612
Clinton86716
Shelby83531
LaGrange81015
Knox77410
Harrison77324
Putnam73716
Posey7236
DeKalb72011
Fayette69018
Steuben6338
Miami6305
Jasper6175
White59215
Montgomery59022
Greene55337
Scott52413
Decatur50739
Adams5027
Whitley4636
Clay4537
Ripley4538
Sullivan44414
Wells43511
Wabash4219
Starke4157
Orange40925
Huntington4015
Spencer3956
Washington3783
Franklin37625
Jennings36913
Fulton3653
Randolph3659
Jefferson3435
Pike33518
Carroll32913
Perry32614
Jay3116
Fountain3073
Tipton27823
Vermillion2531
Parke2374
Newton23011
Blackford2193
Rush2184
Owen2071
Martin2000
Crawford1591
Pulaski1562
Brown1433
Ohio1327
Benton1120
Union1110
Switzerland960
Warren841
Unassigned0234