Former Japanese world champion Umeki Mami ruled the U78kg category at the IJF World Masters in GUnagzhou as the former owner of the red backpatch was the last Japanese judoka standing on Sunday evening. World number 10 Umeki held down Osaka Grand Slam winner Sato Ruika (JPN) for 20 seconds for gold to arguably propel her to pole position in the ever-changing battle for Japan’s one spot at Tokyo 2020 in the U78kg category.
In the first semi-final Umeki pinned down Zagreb Grand Prix winner Madeleine Malonga (FRA) for 17 seconds and the French judoka tapped out. In the second semi-final Sato beat world champion Hamada Shori (JPN) in golden score after the latter was disqualified after being penalised three times.
The first bronze medal was claimed by Hamada who held down world number one Guusje Steenhuis (NED) for 20 seconds for ippon. Three of the four semi-finalists were Japanese and with an all-Japanese it was fair to say that Hamada lost ground in the race for Tokyo 2020 despite picking up bronze at the second biggest event of the season.
The second bronze medal contest featured 17-time Grand Prix medallist Natalie Powell (GBR) and Malonga. Welsh star Powell, who won silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016 at the Masters, produced one of the ippons of the tournament as she lifted up world-class French fighter Malonga with a gigantic ura-nage for ippon.