Tokyo Preview Men U66kg: Japanese will likely destroy the rest
The U66kg category in Tokyo is hard to predict, but when it comes to the finallists, it’s doable as some athletes are way above the rest. There are two Japanese in this category and the gold could easily go to either one. Abe is the more accomplished internationally but the older Maruyama has beaten Abe in both domestic and international competitions.
Highlighting the Japanese men's team this year will be Hifumi Abe, who will be aiming for a third consecutive title in the 66-kg division despite suffering a left ankle injury during practice in June.
Inoue said the injury ended up strengthening the rising star, who celebrated his 22nd birthday earlier this month before being sent off to the worlds with a pep rally from his Nippon Sport Science University, a mass producer of world class athletes.
"It might have been a chance for him to develop. He has developed considerably well physically, technically and mentally," Head coach Kosei Inoue said.
"I can see he is looking at himself and trying to get back to where he was. He's working hard in practice and in his personal life. He'll be able to grow even more if he can win under these circumstances."
Abe has been beaten by others but not consistently by a particular player. Maruyama, however, has had problems with An Ba-ul of South Korea (he has lost to him three times before).
There are other good fighters who could cause an upset like the up-and-coming Denis Vieru (MDA) and Tal Flicker (ISR) as well as veteran campaigner Georgii Zantaraia (UKR) but Abe and Maruyama are the clear favorites here.
Vazha Margvelashvili is the number one seed in Tokyo, so he will in one poule with Brazilian Daniel Cargnin as number eight. Maruyama and Serikzhanov (KAZ) might be in one pool and Abe and Flicker. Another Israelian Baruch Shmailov will be in the same poule with Denis Vieru the surprising strong man from Moldova.
Although Zantaraia is not seeded he can be counted in as he loves World Championships and is the man with six World Championships medals, six in a row 2009-2014 and he took bronze in 2018. An Ba-Ul was the second bronze medallist in Baku.
You probably all knew these guys, so it’s about those you can expect as well as a nasty roadblock. Russian Mikhail Puliaev never disappoints at World Championships. He was in three World Championships finals in 2014, 2015 and 2017 and was seventh last year. So he will definitely break one of the seeded athletes, depending on the draw.
Le Blouch, Shikhalizada, Gomboc, Gaitero, Lombardo can distinguish from the rest if they reach the last eight, but it won’t be easy. Both Japanese are probably gonna destroy the rest.