Mark Picking – IJF and JudoInside
JudoInside.com / judo news, results and photos
It is always great to look at judo stylist Masashi Ebinuma of Japan. The triple world champion will have his hands full in his opening contest against 21-year-old Italian Giovanni Esposito who was the Cadet World Championships winner in 2015.
Double Olympic bronze medallist Ebinuma, who moved up from U66kg to U73kg last year, can be considered as Japan’s number three at the weight, behind Olympic champion Ono Shohei and former world champion Hashimoto Soichi.
The 29-year-old took silver a year ago in Budapest and is yet to win a gold medal on the IJF circuit since switching weight categories but is highly-admired by team manager Inoue Kosei.
Esposito, who is one of the latest talents from the famed judo hotbed of Napoli, took silver at Tel Aviv Grand Prix in January but needs to be in and around the medal picture with greater regularity now as an established senior judoka.
The Italian will relish a clash against a legendary Japanese champion and this opener will tell us a lot about both men.
In the field European Champion Tommy Macias of Sweden as number one seed who is poised to win his poule and likely qualify for the final. Akil Gjakova is a contender for the semi final in his poule C. But more likely Ebinuma will be the strongest in that poule. Is Esposito ready to take the biggest scalp of his career and to medal in a deep division?
In Poule D we will see two veterans fighting in the first round with Marco Maddaloni (now for Albania) and Miki Ungvari which will for sure trigger the fans. Ungvari won silver at the Olympic Games in 2012 U66kg where Masashi Ebinuma took the bronze. For the stories this category is highly interesting.
Can Ebinuma beat the challengers in order to prolong his top-flight career and to put him on the road to winning an elusive U73kg title, his first ever in the World Tour in this category?