The Japan NewsAmi Kondo’s long, winding road to a spot at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics ended after she was chosen as a Japan member to represent the women’s 48-kilogram division on Sunday. But for the 20-year-old judoka, winning an Olympic berth is just a spot to celebrate along her journey.
“The 48-kilogram class is full of Japan’s history. I’ll go all-out to win gold [at Rio],” Kondo said after beating Hiromi Endo in extra time to win the women’s title at the All-Japan invitational weight class championships in Fukuoka.
The victory earned Kondo a spot on the Japan team at this summer’s Rio Games, ending a bitter rivalry with Haruna Asami, a judoka seven years her elder.
The two former world champions — Kondo won the title in 2014 and Asami in 2010 and 2011 — have been neck-to-neck in the race to represent their weight class, made famous by two-time Olympic gold medalist Ryoko Tani.
Kondo beat Asami by ippon in the final of the Tokyo Grand Slam in December, but Kondo faced a second-round exit at the Paris Grand Slam in February, while Asami advanced to the semifinals.
The two were expected to have a showdown in the final of the tournament in Fukuoka, but the story took a sudden twist when Asami suffered a first-round upset loss to Yurie Morizaki.
It was deja vu for Asami, who had a similar experience four years ago when she was considered the favorite to represent Japan in the 48-kilogram class at the London Games. Asami, however, missed out on a berth to London after losing in the first round of the same invitational weight class championships.
“I did my best,” Asami said after the match, with tears welling in her eyes. “This is what I’m capable of.”
Meanwhile, Misato Nakamura, bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, won the women’s 52-kilogram division to grab the Rio spot. In men’s action, London bronze medalist Masashi Ebinuma lost in the semifinals of the 66-kilogram division, but was chosen as a member of the Japan team. In the 73-kilogram class, 2015 world champion Shohei Ono will represent Japan.Speech