Rio flashback: Ono wins judo world crown in Olympic repeat

Alastair HIMMER
Shohei Ono's gold preserved host nation Japan's lead at the top of the medals table

Japan's judo king Shohei Ono smashed Azerbaijan's Rustam Orujov to capture his third world title Tuesday in a carbon copy of their one-sided Olympic final in Rio three years ago.

The 27-year-old, widely regarded as the sport's best pound-for-pound fighter, displayed barely a flicker of emotion after flattening Orujov in the men's 73-kilogram class with a performance that if anything was even more dominant than Rio.

"I came to win so I'm not surprised," said Ono, who won all six of his matches at the Tokyo 2020 test event by ippon -- judo's closest equivalent to a knockout.

"How I won my fights didn't bother me at all," added the Olympic champion, unbeaten in international competition since 2015.

"I managed not to get seduced by everyone saying 'Ono is the clear favourite' and put that kind of stuff out of my mind. I just wanted to focus on what I love -- judo, and on getting the job done."

Elsewhere, Japan-born Christa Deguchi secured Canada's first judo world title by stunning local favourite and defending champion Tsukasa Yoshida in the women's 57-kilo final.

But most of the crowd at Tokyo's iconic Budokan -- venue for next year's Tokyo Olympics and the 1964 Summer Games -- came to watch Ono.

The lightweight division's most fearsome judoka, Ono underlined that aura of invincibility by brutalising Russian Denis Iartcev in the semi-final.

He stepped it up another level in the final, unleashing a ferocious throw to beat Orujov and boost his record against the Azerbaijani to five-for-five.

As the packed crowd went wild, Ono bowed politely to the loser before quietly raising his fist in celebration.

"I have to believe I can keep improving," insisted Ono, looking ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"Winning today will make me even more determined to get back to work in order to climb the highest peak once more in one year's time."

Ono's gold preserved the host nation's lead at the top of the medals table after Joshiro Maruyama and Uta Abe bagged Japan's first two titles on Monday.

Japan dominated the 2018 world championships in Baku, capturing eight of the 15 gold medals available, and will be chasing a similar number at the 2020 Olympics on home soil.

Meanwhile, Deguchi easily pinned Bulgaria's Ivelina Ilieva in the semi-finals but had to dig deep to overcome Yoshida in the championship match.

Bronze medallist last year, the 23-year-old survived a fierce onslaught from the title holder before deftly turning defence into attack by flipping the favourite to complete the upset.

Brazil's Olympic champion Rafaela Silva and Julia Kowalczyk of Poland claimed bronze medals.