Story highlightsThe Tokyo Grand Slam took place last weekendJapan won 12 of the 14 gold medals contest over the two daysSiblings Uta and Hifumi Abe both won their weight categories
Tokyo, Japan (CNN)They are Japan’s unstoppable brother-sister act. The two rising stars of a sport this country holds in a vice-like grip.
The “Abes.”Two explosive young athletes who are taking the sport of judo by storm and look set for greatness as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games appear on the horizon.Hifumi and Uta Abe, 20 and 17 respectively, both took gold medals at the Tokyo Grand Slam, whetting the appetite of fans who hope to see both competitors on top of podiums again in the future.JUST WATCHEDSarah Asahina: Japan’s rising judo starReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Sarah Asahina: Japan’s rising judo star 01:03READ: Inside the Kodokan — judo’s spiritual homeRead MoreJapanese dominance is the the norm in judo and the final major event of the year was no different. The hosts claimed 12 of the 14 gold medals on offer, with seven of the finals contested between two Japanese judokas.In total, the hosts won 32 of the 46 medals available across the two days of competition.But it was the Abe siblings who stole the show, with Uta cast in the headline role.She cemented her reputation as the sport’s wonderkid, adding a first grand slam triumph in the -52kg category to the junior world title she picked up earlier this year.Uta delivered a crushing victory over compatriot Rina Tatsukawa with an ippon seoi-nage after just 45 seconds of the contest.”I am very, very happy to have won this Tokyo Grand Slam,” she said after collecting her medal. “This was my main target for the year, and with it being one of the last events of 2017, it’s a great way to end the year.”JUST WATCHEDThe Olympic and Paralympic judo brothersReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
The Olympic and Paralympic judo brothers 03:15READ: Life through a lens with a judo photographerUta became the youngest ever winner of a grand prix event in February, coming out on top in Dusseldorf while she was still in high school.And her exploits spurred on her older brother, who came into the weekend as a world champion in the -66kg category and lived up to his billing.”I saw my sister win her final before I fought. Her victory meant I was even more motivated to win gold,” he said after a hard-fought win over Joshiro Murayama in the final.Hifumi has now won his last 28 matches, although his admiration for his prodigious younger sister is clear.”If she had won and I hadn’t, then even though I’m the older brother, it would have been me looking up to her,” he said.The Abe siblings boast rich judo heritage. Their uncle is Tadahiro Nomura, who won three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the -60kg category between 1996 and was crowned world champion in 1997. Photos: Judo through the lensJudo through the lens – Born into a life of judo, International Judo Federation photographer Jack Willingham goes through his work, picking out his favorite images and explaining why he loves the sport.Hide Caption 1 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensIlias Iliadis vs. Kiril Denisov – “I have been a judo fan all my life,” says Willingham. “I was a volunteer at the Athens 2004 Olympics in the judo and watched Ilias Iliadis win Olympic gold at 17 years old (I was 16 at the time). So for me, it has been amazing to be able to document the ups and downs of his career so closely. He is one of the most spectacular judokas, when he’s on the mat something extraordinary invariably happens! He is also one of my favorite judoka of all time. I have two shots of him that I particularly like. This is at the 2011 World Championships in Paris, which he would go on to win to become a double world champion. In the semifinal against one of his great rivals Kiril Denisov, he threw with this incredible Ura Nage for ippon to put him into the final.”Hide Caption 2 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensIlias Iliadis vs. Noel Van T End – “Not such an historic moment, but one of my favorite action shots ever. Both men clear of the mat, in mid air, this is Iliadis throwing Noel Van T End with Uchi Mata to win the 2014 Dusseldorf Grand Prix.”Hide Caption 3 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensMaljinda Kelmendi – Maljinda Kelmendi has been one of the most dominant judokas on the planet over the last four years,” says Willingham. “This is partly thanks to the efforts of the International Judo Federation and its president Marius Vizer, who recognized Kosovo as a nation on the judo circuit. The International Olympic Committee accepted Kosovo into the Games in time for Rio 2016, allowing her to become the first ever Olympic gold medalist from that country. This shot is her leaving the tatami after the Olympic final, completely overcome with emotion, her coach Driton Kuka in the background, also with tears in his eyes.”Hide Caption 4 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensMaljinda Kelmendi and Thomas Bach – “The second shot I am proud of as it’s IOC president Thomas Bach awarding Kelmendi her medal. Once again it’s historic, but I also took a risk and snuck around to the side to see both of their faces and managed to find a gap between two of the medal hostesses to get the exact shot I wanted. This also meant I’m sure I’m the only person in the world with this image!”Hide Caption 5 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensRafaela Silva – Hailing from Cidade de Deus — featured in the award-winning film the City of God — Rafaela Silva is another judoka that boasts an amazing story. Here she is celebrating becoming world champion in Rio in 2013.Hide Caption 6 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensRafaela Silva – “This is effectively the same shot as the previous one, when she won Brazil’s first gold medal at the Rio Olympics! Although not quite the same angle, I loved the symmetry.”Hide Caption 7 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensKayla Harrison – “I have a great friendship with Kayla Harrison, so for her to pick me out and strike a pose as she won her second Olympic title in Rio was really cool. She’s a great character, and probably the most determined and mentally tough athlete I’ve come across.”Hide Caption 8 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lens David Larose – This image is in because I love working in Paris. The iconic Bercy Stadium (as it was called then) has the best public, atmosphere and energy of any tournament in the world. This picture is France’s David Larose celebrating after winning the Paris Grand Slam in 2013. I love the story it tells: Larose ecstatic standing over a distraught Davaadorj Tumurkhuleg, the scoreboard reading ippon and the crowd going mad.Hide Caption 9 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lens Lee Kyu Won vs. Masashi Nishiyama – “This throw from the -90kg final of the 2012 Tokyo Grand Slam final by former world champion Lee Kyu Won against Masashi Nishiyama to me really shows how much drive with the legs Lee needs to finish the throw off. I love the expression on his face, I love the flailing arms of Nishiyama trying to scramble to avoid the inevitable, there’s so much in this one. It is one my favorites on image alone but, for me, it holds a special place in my heart because 2012 was the first time I had ever been to Japan, the home of judo, and it was my first visit to the legendary Tokyo Grand Slam. So to come away with such a great shot made it all the more special.”Hide Caption 10 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensKaori Matsumoto – “This is a portrait of Olympic and double world champion Kaori Matsumoto. One of the most feared athletes in women’s judo, her nickname is the assassin. This is her waiting to come out to fight in the Tokyo Grand Slam final. I love the intensity and the focus this image portrays.”Hide Caption 11 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensShohei Ono – Shohei Ono is now an Olympic and double world champion at -73kg. But in 2013, he had none of those titles. This is him throwing France’s Ugo Legrand for ippon in the 2013 World Championship final to become world champion for the first time. If I could choose only one picture to define my career, it would be this. Legrand is so perfectly vertical, which you rarely see in judo… let alone in a world championship final. This was the birth of a legend.Hide Caption 12 of 13 Photos: Judo through the lensTeddy Riner – “This shot is in for a number of reasons. Teddy Riner is now unquestionably the greatest judoka of all time. Double Olympic and nine-time world champion (he’s going for his tenth in November), so he had to be in my list for that. This is also in Paris, in front of his home crowd at the Grand Slam. It’s a massive Uchi Mata (one of judo’s classical techniques) and it’s not all that often you see the men in the +100kg (some of them upwards of 150kg) launched so high and with such precision.”Hide Caption 13 of 13READ: Japanese judo icon Kosei InoueGlobal success is demanded in Japanese judo. The fans who watched on from their seats inside the arena had their loyalties split between the country’s numerous elite-level judokas.Bands of spectators displayed their allegiances by wearing the colors of their home judo clubs, with some bunched together in groups of up to 200.And when their favored competitor took to the tatami, they screamed their names with increasing vigor as the day wore on.But the crowd was denied the one bout they had all come to see.Soichi Hashimoto is the reigning -73kg world champion and one of the most talented judokas on the planet.He has made the division his own over the last 12 months, winning the Tokyo Grand Slam in 2016.Fans were anxious to see how he would fare against the returning Shohei Ono, a two-time -73kg world champion who took time out of the sport to concentrate on his studies after winning the Olympic title in 2016.Ono was selected for the Rio Games ahead of Hashimoto and a first showdown between the two was set to be the headline act of this grand slam weekend.But it wasn’t to be. Ono, dubbed the “thrower of throwers”, was forced to withdraw from the competition with a knee injury ahead of his second match, while Hashimoto was forced to settle for a bronze medal.It was an anticlimactic end to the event for both athletes, with Ono in particular cutting a dejected figure in the stands.”I realized that this is my ability, this was the best I can do today,” said the 25-year-old Ono. “I am starting from zero.”JUST WATCHEDLegends of judo: Yasuhiro YamashitaReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Legends of judo: Yasuhiro Yamashita 01:10Japanese men’s head coach Kosei Inoue was unconcerned by Ono’s withdrawal, saying its more important for him to be in peak condition ahead of major competitions such as the 2019 World Championships, which will be staged in Tokyo.”He made the correct judgment in pulling out,” said Inoue, himself a three-time world champion and an Olympic gold medalist in 2000.”He doesn’t need to peak right now. I want Ono to be in top shape and awe the judo world when I matters.”