Uta Abe wins the ultimate Olympic battle U52kg
The category U52kg had the luxury of having two Olympic champions. Not only Uta Abe but as well Distria Krasniqi, gold at U48kg, more comfortable at U52kg, and in the process of adaptation. It was the final of the Grand Prix in Zagreb.
The return of the Japanese team to the Tour continues. This time round we see Uta Abe back in glittering form, a first international appearance since she became Olympic champion last year. Her brother dominated at U66kg last week in Budapest and now she seems to be following suit.
Both are extraordinary judoka and to see two Olympic champions face to face is something very beautiful. The difference is that where the Kosovar does everything well, the Japanese is perfect. Abe hit waza-ari followed by osae-komi. Her gold, Japan's second in Zagreb, was a warning to all the others, starting with Krasniqi.
Both came through, banging over their opponents until the semis where each stalled just a little until both made it through with good scores. Krasniqi lost to Abe the only time they ever fought before, in 2018, in the Paris Grand Slam quarter-final at U52kg. Now the difference is they are both Olympic champions. We were really looking forward to this. We mirror what the fans want to see. No-one wanted it in round 1 and with them being separated by less than 100 points on the WRL, ranked 9 for Abe & 10 for Krasniqi, our wish was granted, in the final.
The good thing about Uta Abe is that she doesn't waste time. It took her thirteen seconds to crush Canadian Kelly Deguchi in her first World Judo Tour match since the Games. The Japanese did in Zagreb the same as her brother in Budapest. It was a declaration of intent, it was about everyone knowing that the Olympic champion had landed with the same will and an amazing technical repertoire.
Abe ran over the Brazilian Taba, did the same with the Italian Giorda and stood in the semi-final accumulating an effective time on the tatami that did not exceed two minutes in three fights. The fourth win came after four minutes against Swiss Fabienne Kocher, who was no gift. Abe won and it was predicted but the Swiss, despite her combativeness, never gave the feeling that she could stop the Japanese. That was what caught our attention the most, Abe's feeling of absolute dominance in all her contests. Uta Abe defeated Distria Krasniqi in the final of all finals, the one between two Olympic champions.
Ballhaus speaks German, Kocher we don't know for sure, nor do we know that, if they both speak German, might they have said something to each other before the bronze medal match, but they did speak on the tatami, especially the Swiss, scoring waza-ari which was enough to take the win and the medal.
Gefen Primo defeated the Moroccan Soumiya Iraoui, who put in a great performance, but not enough to step on to the podium. The Moroccan was left at the gates, but her judo boded well for the remainder of the season, which is a lot.
Uta Abe was well prepared for Krasniqi, she knew her and despite she came from another weight category, she analysed her carefully, with effect. After the Olympic Games Abe has been in many TV shows and had lots of other appearances, but that didn't affect her lifestyle and commitment to judo she said after her gold medal in Zagreb. With her brother they are among the most famous siblings in Japan and they have had a happy life, but now the focus is set for her second Olympic gold medal in Paris.