Tashkent 2022: Shavdatuashvili or Hashimoto?
If Shohei Ono were competing in Tashkent, he would be a shoo-in for the gold medal. But Ono was still recovering from injury during the Japanese trials and had to miss it. This is why Hashimoto is going instead.
The Japanese must be confident that Hashimoto can deliver the goods because they could have sent two players in the -73kg division. But instead, they are sending two players in the -66kg and -81kg divisions. That fills up their quota of nine players.
Can Hashimoto do it? He’s certainly a top prospect. A former World Champion with a killer one-handed sode, as well as the ability to throw seoi-nage to both sides. He can do tai-otoshi too.
His main shortcoming is that unless he gets the right grip, he doesn’t attack. This has resulted in him getting shidos in past competitions. If he faces an unorthodox player that doesn’t let him settle on a grip, he might lose out.
One such player could be Lasha Shavdatuashvili, a former Olympic Champion at -66kg and the reigning World Champion at -73kg.
They’ve fought three times and Hashimoto has beaten him twice, but that was way back in 2017. The last time they met was at the 2022 Paris Grand Slam and there, Shavdatuashvili won by way of penalties. Their match went into Golden Score and after Hashimoto got his third shido, he was disqualified.
A potential challenger could be Hidayat Heydarov (AZE), who is ranked No. 2. Heydarov has never been able to beat Hashimoto (they’ve fought six times and he’s lost all six) so if he were to meet Hashimoto, it’s not likely he would prevail. But the last time he fought Shavdatuashvili, in the final of the 2022 Hungary Grand Slam, Heydarov won.