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Uta Abe on top of the mountain in Tokyo for the fourth time

Uta Abe on top of the mountain in Tokyo for the fourth time

5 Dec 2023 01:05
IJF Media team by Callum MacLennan and JudoInside
IJF Gabriela Sabau / International Judo Federation

Once again, at the Tokyo Grand Slam 2023, none of her opponents of Uta Abe could become the immovable object and inflict a rare defeat, as she breezed through to the final of her home grand slam for the 6th time in as many tries. Having not lost a match on the IJF World Tour since the Osaka Grand Slam 2019, Uta Abe will forever carry the weight of expectation of the judo world, for the remainder of her career, but you wouldn’t know it. The 4-time world champion and current Olympic champion is an unstoppable force in her weight category and handles that expectation with ease.

In the final a seemingly innocuous ko-uchi-gari from two sleeves from Abe had Priscilla Gneto flat on her back before she could impose herself in the contest. Grand slam gold number 8 was in the bag for the 23-year-old and she already looks assured to bring home a second Olympic title in Paris next year. Time is running out for her opposition to find a solution to her brilliance.

Bronze medals

Pimenta and Primo battled it out for the first of the bronze medals. Primo had beaten Pimenta in all three of their previous meetings and the result this time was no different. Pimenta was awarded a third and final penalty after one minute of golden score, handing the Israeli her 6th grand slam bronze medal.

The second bronze medal match was a fight between Pupp and Sosorbaram Lkhagvasuren (MGL); a close contest settled in the final 10 seconds by an excellent ura-nage from the Mongolian which scored ippon. This win was a first for Lkhagvasuren over Pupp in 3 meetings and earned her a 5th grand slam medal.


A bye in round 1 meant that Abe’s first contest of the day was against Zagreb Grand Prix 2023 winner Pereira (BRA). The Japanese starlet used the kata-sankaku hold that won her the Olympic title, but the Brazilian escaped at 17 seconds. Not to be deterred, Abe immediately secured another hold and eventually scored a second waza-ari in the last 20 seconds of the match. Against Bishrelt (UAE) in the quarter-final, she took almost half the time to throw her opponent with sode-tsurikomi-goshi for ippon. Even less time was needed for her to dispatch number 4 seed Gefen Primo (ISR); Abe threw the Israeli with an off-the-grip uchi-mata and landed in yoko-shiho-gatame to finish the job.

Astride Gneto (FRA) was the last person standing between Abe and her 8th grand slam gold medal. The French fighter was aiming for her 4th grand slam gold and began by throwing Borisova (AIN) with harai-goshi for a waza-ari in round 1. She then took a tactical victory over Toro Soler (ESP) in round 2. Against Pimenta in the quarter-final, Gneto’s dominant kumi-kata caused the Brazilian to pick up three shidos in under two minutes to hand over the victory. This set up a semi-final with top seed Reka Pupp (HUN), where Gneto was able to throw with her favoured o-uchi-gari to score waza-ari and, despite picking up two shidos under pressure from the Hungarian.

In the interview with the IJF she said she didn’t feel the pressure of the media following Uta and Hifumi.  She wasn’t any more nervous and had a lot of fans on the stands supporting the siblings. This contributed to the victory. She was a little worried for this tournament but all worked out well. This event was a good way for her to prepare for the Olympic Games. Uta: “I am always happy to hear the national anthem for me or my brother, my brother is always nearby and that is really reassuring. This is the only international event held here in Japan so it’s also important to show Japanese judo to everybody and to improve my own judo. I am just grateful to my parents and to all supporters cheering for the team Abe. Tonight I look forward to eat some delicious food with my family and friends.”

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