Japan’s judo stood in infamy on Monday after its men’s squad suffered an unprecedented wipeout with no gold medals at the world championships.
“The time has finally come for the sun to set on ‘Judo Nippon,’” the influential newspaper Asahi Shimbun said, citing the self-anointed nickname of the sport’s homeland.
Japanese men failed to win a title, taking one silver and one bronze at the championships which ended on Sunday. In the other divisions, they failed to even reach the quarterfinals.
“Japan must accept the fact that they have declined into a middle-ranking power in judo,” the Sankei Shimbun said.
Japanese men had always won at least one gold since 1965, when the world championship was expanded into different divisions from an all-weights open format. They have also won at least one gold in the Olympics since the sport made its debut in the 1964 Tokyo Games.
But their decline on the world stage became clear at last year’s Beijing Olympics, where they ended with an all-time low of two medals, though both were gold.
“Japan even failed to save themselves in the showpiece heavyweight, exposing the seriousness of their plight,” the Yomiuri Shimbun said.
On the final day on Sunday, former double world champion Yasuyuki Muneta, who won the only gold for Japanese men at the 2007 worlds, lost to Mongolia’s Gankhuyag Dorjpalam in the third round of the over-100 kilogram division.
In the under-100kg, Takamasa Anai fought back through the consolation draw after a quarterfinal loss and grabbed a bronze.
“In Japanese judo, only the gold medal matters. I have strong regrets,” the 25-year-old Anai told Japanese reporters.
At the Beijing Olympics, Masato Uchishiba retained his -66 kg title and Satoshi Ishii triumphed in the +100 kg division.
But Ishii, now 22, has defected to the lucrative world of mixed martial arts. Uchishiba, 31, bowed out in the third round.
“We will return to the basics and train ourselves from zero,” said Japanese men’s coach Shinichi Shinohara, a 1999 double world champion.
He added: “We must change something, although we may not see any outcome soon. I cannot tell easily what we should change.” AFP