TOKIO/LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE – Jorre Verstraeten (-60kg/16 WRL) is the first of four Belgian judokas to mount the Olympic tatami in the legendary Budokan arena, built for the 1964 Olympics.
Our compatriot starts well against the German Moritz Plafky (29 WRL). It is the first time both opponents go head-to-head, and he needs to bring the bout into the Golden Score to put the German aside. Then follows the fight against a tough opponent, namely the three-time Japanese world champion Naohisa Takato (4 WRL). Another first encounter between the two judokas. The three-time world champion keeps the fight tightly closed. Verstraeten continues to look for openings but takes two penalties. A few seconds before the end of the bout, the number 4 in the world knocks out our judoka with an uchi-mata, good for ippon and hence terminating Verstraeten’s Olympic campaign. Jorre’s disappointment is tangible with his early exit from the Olympic tournament.
"I don't know what to say," Jorre reacted disheartened afterwards. "I gave everything and tried what I could. Today the Japanese was stronger. Period. Of course, he was one of the favorites, but I wanted to stunt. I came for a medal, but I'm ejected before the quarterfinals. It will take some time for this to sink in."
"Jorre did everything he could. There are many things he will learn from this encounter for the future," said coach Cédric Taymans. "We knew it would be a difficult fight, because Takato's style does not suit him. The draw is also a lottery. I think Jorre did everything he could to be in shape. He was in the shape of his life. So, we can be optimistic for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024," concludes the coach.