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Akira Sone defies inexperience as Japan tops Guangzhou Masters

Akira Sone showed age is no barrier as the 18-year-old proved the star attraction for a Japan team that comf...

Posted: Dec. 17, 2018 3:32 PM
Updated: Dec. 17, 2018 3:32 PM

Akira Sone showed age is no barrier as the 18-year-old proved the star attraction for a Japan team that comfortably topped the medal table with seven gold medals at the year-ending Guangzhou Masters.

Arguably facing one of the greatest heavyweights of all time in Cuba's Idalys Ortiz -- a former Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion -- teenager Sone proved undaunted.

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The 18-year-old continually pressured world silver medalist Ortiz, the Cuban eventually given three shido penalties, which saw Sone crowned the winner as Japan swept the board to win every women's weight category.

Sone was the aggressor from the outset, forcing a rattled Ortiz, who trains against men to prepare herself for competitions, to concede those trio of shido penalties and, with that, the title.

Following her first major title on the World Judo Tour, Sone, who became a national champion as a 17-year-old, said: "Ortiz is a very tactical judoka. So, I knew that I couldn't fall into her trap, so I just tried to stay one step ahead of her throughout."

For the Japanese judoka, it was their superior technical skill, which shone out.

Former judo world champion Neil Adams, a technical adviser for the International Judo Federation, told Judo Inside: "Japan obviously always impress because they are always looking for ippon.

"The Japanese judoka rely more on technical expertise and technique to win a match, that tells us a lot towards the sheer volume of practice as opposed to just physical training. Technique wins.

"Even when they're down and out, the top judoka are always dangerous, the ones with big techniques, you can't write them off. When you have technique, you're always dangerous until the last second."

The Masters is invite only, open to the 16 best judoka in the world in each category, with Japan claiming three gold medals in all on the final day of action, including Mami Uemki defeating countrywoman Ruika Sato with ippon in the final of the -78 kilogram division.

Another Japanese youngster in Saki Niizoe starred by defeating three-time world champion Yui Alvear in the -70kg finale.

Georgia proved the best of the rest behind the dominant Japanese with duo Varlam Liparteliani and Guram Tushishvili both winning gold.

Liparteliani did not even have to take to the mat for his -100kg final when Mongolian opponent Otgonbattar Lkhagvasuren pulled out with injury.

Meanwhile, Tushishvili, the current +100kg world champion, needed ippon to edge out Brazilian Rafael Silva in the defense of his Guangzhou title.

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