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Monday, 30th April 2012
In Japan Sports News, Sports,

Underdog Kato wins national judo title

Despite entering the national championships as an outsider, Hirotaka Kato showed that reputation counts for nothing and it is all about what goes on in the bout as he beat off the competition to with the national judo title.

It was only the fifth time that the underdog has entered the unweighted national championship, yet he was unfazed as he saw off Ryuta Ishii in the final match to claim the top prize.

Winning the crown will be extra special for Kato, as he became the first judoka weighing less than 100kg to claim the title for 40 years, the Japan Times reported.

"This feels like a dream," he told the news provider.

"I am so excited I feel like I don't know where I am. I was determined that I had to win this, and I kept plugging away until the end."

At a height of 1.74 metres, Kato is a relative lightweight at 93kg and he needed a favour from the judges to see of former winner Yasuyuki Muneta in the quarter-finals, before his stomach throw saw off Masaru Momose in the semis.

The fact that the open-weight contest was an Olympic qualification competition will not have escaped Kato's notice either.

For Daiki Kamikawa, favourite to win going into the tournament, and the veteran Keiji Suzuki, loss brought them nothing but disappointment.

The 22-year-old Kamikawa only made it as far as the quarters, while Olympic gold-medallist Suzuki, 31, lost to Ishii in the semi-final after a heavy throw dislocated his shoulder

"I feel nothing but disappointment the national championship has ended like this for me. I want to apologise to my fans," he said before departing to hospital.

The over-100kg judokas looking to qualify for London 2012 will now have their fates decided at the weight-class national championships in two weeks time, which are due to be held at the Fukuoka Kokusai Centre.

This year, Judo celebrates its 130th birthday. The martial art was created in Japan by Jigoro Kano in 1882.

Written by Mark Smith