Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Haga on Top of World at 100 Kg

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Haga on Top of World at 100 Kg

Article excerpt

ASTANA -- Ryunosuke Haga clinched the men's 100-kilogram class title at the World Judo Championships on Saturday, defeating Germany's Karl-Richard Frey in a strong worlds debut that brought Japan a total haul of six gold medals.

Haga, 24, was at the top of his game throughout the tournament. In the final, the judoka gained an edge with a flurry of precise inner-leg sweeps that forced Frey to go on the defensive. The German was subsequently hit with a "shido" warning.

"My results were good, everything paid off," Haga said, cracking a smile after winning the match.

Despite the solid performances this time around, Haga hasn't forgotten about the humiliation he suffered last year: For the first time, the All-Japan Judo Federation didn't send a single judoka in the 100-kilogram class to last year's worlds in Chelyabinsk, Russia, because none were deemed good enough.

Haga was sent to Chelyabinsk as a staff member for the national team, forced to watch the action from the sidelines.

"I'm the only one who felt like I was left out of worlds last year, so I had that much more determination," Haga, a native of Miyazaki Prefecture, said.

The judoka's determination allowed him to climb to the top of what some call the most competitive class. The sport was in his blood -- his father, Yoshio, is a title holder of the prestigious Kodokan Cup.

Haga started to get noticed when he won 20 times in a row at a Kinshuki high school tournament when he was a freshman, and attended powerhouses Tokai University Sagami High School and Tokai University before joining up with the Asahi Kasei corporate team.

Haga started to build expectations as a future champion after he snagged consecutive Kodokan Cup titles in 2010 and 2011, but his promising trajectory started to take a turn for the worse after a dislocated left shoulder put him out of action for about nine months.

Ryunosuke contains a kanji character meaning dragon, reflecting the wishes of his parents for him to ascend to the top in the image of a mighty dragon -- and the judoka has done just that, grabbing the gold after overcoming trials and tribulations. …

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