Work in Sports
Japan's judo giant seeks revenge over French rival
TOKYO, Aug 25 (AFP) - To Japan's judo giant Shinichi Shinohara, his double world crown will not mean much until he settles an old score with defending Olympic champion David Douillet.
It was the 31-year-old Frenchman that deprived Shinohara of the 1997 world heavyweight title on his home mat in Paris.
The gentle 27-year-old Japanese was the aggressor all along but a French judge slapped him with a controversial penalty that made the hometown hero a king.
A back injury prevented Douillet from competing at the Birmingham world championships last October where Shinohara won 10 out of his 11 matches by knockout "ippon" to grab both the heavyweight and open titles.
The feat led him into the hall of fame. He was only the fourth man to glitter with gold from the two showpiece events -- following Japan's Yasuhiro Yamashita and Naoya Ogawa in 1981 and 1989, and Douillet in 1995.
But for Shinohara, standing high on the podium in Sydney and bringing Japan its first Olympic heavyweight gold since Seoul 1988 remains his ultimate goal.
"Even though I lifted the double crown at the worlds, it won't mean anything as long as people say it was won in Douillet's absence.
"I am only thinking about the gold medal at Sydney."
Head-to-head, Shinohara and the injury-prone Douillet, who is struggling to find his form after a 15 month lay-off, are 1-1.
"Judging from my age, I think this will be my last (Olympics)," said Shinohara, a 1.90m (6ft 4in) and 134 kilogram (295 pound) chemical company employee. "If I can fight my kind of judo, no one can beat me."
A native of Kobe, Shinohara dabbled in a type of Kung fu before he was lured into judo at junior high school.
He went on to become national student champion in 1993 while he was a junior at Tenri University near Osaka.
With hands spanning about 25 centimeters (10 inches), he grabbed his first world championship medal in 1995, an open-class bronze, and also reigned supreme at the 1998 Asian Games.
Even if Douillet fails to prove the fighter he once was, Shinohara's over-100kg campaign faces a serious challenge from Tamerlan Tmenov, the 1998 and 1999 European champion.
Injury-hit Shinohara lost to the 23-year-old Russian in September 1998 in the World Cup team event quarter-finals in Minsk. Head-to-head Tmenov leads Shinohara 2-1.
But since that Minsk defeat, Shinohara has been on a winning streak which now stands at 38 matches, thanks largely to the effectiveness of his favourite uchimata (inner thigh throw) and osotogari (a throw using the leg and shoulder).
"Shinohara's judo used to be rough but now it is different," said the legendary judo champ and national head coach Yasuhiro Yamashita.