The Yomiuri Shimbun YOKOHAMA — Unlike with the uniform of the opponent she had defeated, Kanae Yamabe had trouble coming to grips with the fact that she had made her first Olympic judo team.
“Is this a dream?” said Yamabe after being selected by the All-Japan Judo Federation to fill the over-78-kilogram spot at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Yamabe received the joyful news soon after winning the title at the All-Japan Women’s Championship on Sunday at Yokohama Cultural Gym, beating rival Megumi Tachimoto in the final.
It was the third straight time the two had faced off for the title of the winner-take-all tournament with no weight classes. Yamabe pinned down Tachimoto for an ippon victory for her first All-Japan title in two years and third overall.
Tachimoto had been regarded as the top favorite in the race for Rio, based on the pair’s results in international tournaments.
But with victories in the two domestic qualifiers — earlier this month, Yamabe won the over-78-kilogram title at the All-Japan invitational weight class championships where Tachimoto lost in the semifinals — Yamabe got the Olympic nod.
In Sunday’s final, Tachimoto suffered a left knee injury with less than a minute remaining, and Yamabe took advantage to push her off-balance opponent to the mat. “No matter what, I needed to win by ippon,” Yamabe said. “I was in no position to be choosy how I did it.”
Yamabe said she was inspired by swimmer Satomi Suzuki, a fellow 25-year-old who went to the same university and belongs to the same company, Miki House.
Suzuki’s aggressive style helped her secure a berth in Rio in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the recent Japan Swimming Championships.