How a heavyweight final at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam ended with no winner

Story highlights

  • Heavyweight final at Dusseldorf Grand Slam ends without a winner
  • Judoka Hisayoshi Harasawa and Takeshi Ojitani both disqualified at same time
  • IJF defends world first decision, calling the fight "unacceptable"

(CNN)It was a podium without a gold medalist and a competition without a winner.

The first ever Dusseldorf Grand Slam wasn't supposed to end like this.
Over 400 judoka from 65 different nations had convened at the ISS Dome in western Germany for one of the most important competitions on the International Judo Federation (IJF) calendar.
    And, after three days of action across 13 weight categories, all eyes were on Sunday's heavyweight (100kg+) final.
    Japan had already won seven gold medals at the Grand Slam and looked certain to add another, with Japanese competitors Hisayoshi Harasawa and Takeshi Ojitani going head-to-head to be crowned champion.
    But Honduran referee Jose Ordonez had other ideas.
    Instead both fighters were disqualified at exactly the same time, less than two minutes into the fight.
    It meant neither man won the contest. Both stood on the podium with silver medals around their necks. The gold remained unclaimed.

    Double hansoku-make

    Harasawa and Ojitani were both penalized for excessive "passivity," meaning neither competitor had shown sufficient intent to fight.
    The IJF called the outcome -- known as "double hansoku-make" -- a worldwide "first" at this level, but offered no apology to the disappointed competitors.
    "The IJF Supervisors and our team deemed that this contest and the way it unfolded was unacceptable," said IJF head referee director Juan Carlos Barcos.
    "There was no intention to fight from either judoka and with the recently amended rules we can now reprimand two judoka in this way.
    "This is what we decided as there was no judoka worthy of winning in the +100kg final."
    Harasawa and Ojitani can have few complaints; they had both been warned.
    The first shido -- akin to a yellow card -- was awarded to both after just 38 seconds.
    And the match wasn't even halfway complete when Ordonez again stopped proceedings, dishing out a second shido to each competitor after one minute and 16 seconds.
    The referee had left them no room for further error or infraction, but even that did not spur the Japanese fighters into action.
    With 2:11 left on the clock, the third and final shidos were signaled, and the four-minute match was ended.


    Perplexed by the outcome, unsure whether their journey had ended in victory or defeat, both competitors looked to their coaches for some form of reassurance.
    An eerie silence descended in the ISS Dome as supporters tried to process what had just happened.
    Dusseldorf Grand Slam men's winners

    Men's extra-lightweight - Ryuju Nagayama (JPN)

    Men's half-lightweight - Kenzo Tagawa (JPN)

    Men's lightweight - Shohei Ono (JPN)

    Men's half-middleweight - Saeid Mollaei (IRI)

    Men's middleweight - Mikhail Igolnikov (RUS)

    Men's half-heavyweight - Varlam Liparteliani (GEO)

    Men's heavyweight - N/A

    Ojitani, accustomed to concluding a match with a well-rehearsed bow, wandered aimlessly around the tatami. Harasawa, hands on hips, remained rooted to the spot.
    It took the repeated hand gestures of the referee to awaken the fighters from their stupor. A bemused bow and cursory handshake later, they slowly ambled off the mat.
    "It is against the spirit of judo to turn up and not fight," explained Sheldon Franco-Rooks, official commentator of the IJF.
    "Neither fighter has demonstrated the desire to compete here. So the referee has said 'OK, if you're not going to fight, you're both off.'
    The Paris Grand Slam
    The Paris Grand Slam


      The Paris Grand Slam


    The Paris Grand Slam 22:46
    "There will be no gold medal awarded in this contest; they'll both get silver. They've both been disqualified. If you haven't come here to fight, off you go. That's it."
    Fellow commentator Loretta Cusack-Doyle, a former world champion, said she'd never seen anything like it before in her decades involved with the sport.
    Dusseldorf Grand Slam women's winners

    Women's extra-lightweight - Daria Bilodid (UKR)

    Women's half-lightweight - Ai Shishime (JPN)

    Women's lightweight - Nekoda Smythe-Davis (JPN)

    Women's half-middleweight - Andreja Leski (SLO)

    Women's middleweight - Yoko Ono (JPN)

    Women's half-heavyweight - Ruika Sato (JPN)

    Women's heavyweight - Sarah Asahina (JPN)

    "What's so sad about this is the anticlimax to three days of judo," said Cusack-Doyle during the live broadcast. "It just leaves it a little bit flat -- the last fight of the day and it ends like that."
    Japan coach and three-time world champion Kosei Inoue subsequently expressed fear the heavyweight category could lose its customary appeal, should such decisions continue to be made.
    "The way things finished was regrettable," said Inoue, according to the Japan Times. "It leaves a bad aftertaste.
    "There's a possibility the heavyweight division could lose its appeal if wrestlers are getting penalties before even attempting an attack.
    "I still have a lot of questions, but we can take a lot of positives from the tournament."

    A medal ceremony without an anthem

    The ensuing medal ceremony was as unconventional as the outcome. Of the four men on the podium, not one stood atop it.
    The podium had not been designed for this eventuality...
    Bronze went to Russia's Andrey Volkov and Bekbolot Toktogonov of Kyrgyzstan. Harasawa and Ojitani, visibly vexed, took their silvers with no hint of a smile.
    "There's a huge space there where the gold medalist would have been," Franco-Rooks pointed out. "However it is, I think, a lesson learned here. These two didn't want to fight. Where was the medal going to go? They weren't fighting. Where was the choice?
    The customary photographs were taken. No national anthem was played.
    "I was sad," Cusack-Doyle told CNN Sport. "For me it was an anticlimax to what was a wonderful weekend of judo that was positive and exciting to watch. Was it deserved? Yes, I personally think it was.
    "It's the first time I've witnessed this happening and I hope it's the last."