Yeldos Smetov triumphed in an all-Kazakh men's final on the first day of competition at the World Judo Championships in Astana ©IJF

Yeldos Smetov and Rustam Ibrayev ensured hosts Kazakhstan got off to a stunning start at the 2015 World Judo Championships here today after both men met in the men's under 60 kilogram final following a thrilling day of action.

The pair were roared on by a home crowd throughout the morning with both men, despite having earned success on the World Judo Tour, were considered outside chances of securing the world title in the extra-lightweight division.

Smetov, the sixth seed, appeared the hosts best chance of claiming a medal on the opening day and he began impressively, recording three victories before winning his quarter-final against Uzbekistan’s Diyorbek Urozboev, who had earlier shocked the European champion Beslan Murdranov of Russia.

The Budapest Grand Prix winner then faced Japan’s Toru Shishime for the right to advance to the gold medal match, with a tense encounter ultimately decided by a solitary yuko in Smetov’s favour at the end of the five-minute bout.

While the crowd where toasting that achievement, they also had one eye on the second semi-final where Ibrayev was taking on the defending champion Boldbaatar Ganbat of Mongolia in another closely fought contest.

Ibrayev had impressively dispatched Georgia’s Amiran Papinashvili, but victory over Ganbat was his biggest scalp of the day, striking late in the bout with a yuko to edge into the final.

The mood of celebration in the stands was not dampened by a cagey final between home judokas, in which Smetov triumphed having accrued less shido penalities and the contest ended with the pair embracing each other on the mat.

Shishime recovered from his semi-final defeat to get Japan on the medals table, beating Brazil’s Felipe Kitadai with an ippon in their bronze medal match, while South Korea’s Won Jin Kim came through the repecharge to beat Ganbat to the second bronze, via a yuko.

A light show formed part of the Opening Ceremony of the Championships
A light show formed part of the Opening Ceremony of the World Judo Championships in Astana ©IJF

Prior to the evening's finals taking place the Championship's Opening Ceremony was held, including an impressive light show and several local musical acts, before International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer officially opened the tournament.

"The IJF is proud to host this World Championships here in Kazakhstan, judo is one of the most educational sports in the world and it is very important here in Kazakhstan," he told the audience. 

“I thank the Government of Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstan Judo Federation, spectators and staff who have contributed to the success of these World Championships.

"I wish you a lot of success at these World Championships and a good stay in Astana.”

The women’s under 48kg judokas were also in action and the majority of the early focus was on Pool C featuring Brazil's Olympic champion Sarah Menezes, as well as the London 2012 silver and bronze medallists Alina Dumitru of Romania and Belgium’s Charline Van Snick.

It was the 2014 World Championship silver medallist Paula Pareto of Argentina, however, who battled through the toughest of pools and, rather than being exhausted by her efforts, appeared more dominant in each round.

The Beijing 2008 Olympic silver medallist may have expected to meet defending champion Ami Kondo in the last four but the 20-year-old Japanese was surprisingly beaten by South Korea’s Bo Kyeong Jeong in their quarter-final bout.

Jeong, though, was unable to repeat the trick against the Argentine.

Argentina's Paula Pareto won her first world title, a year on from finishing as the runner-up
Argentina's Paula Pareto won her first world title, a year on from finishing as the runner-up ©IJF

Pareto, however, did face a Japanese opponent in the final as Haruna Asami enjoyed comfortable progression throughout the day as she chased winning a third world title, having previously triumphed in 2010 and 2011.

Pareto lifted title after the Argentinian had only one shido penalty to Asami’s two at the close of the bout, earning her her first world title.

Asami was joined on the podium by her team-mate Kondo, who bounced back from her earlier disappointment to win her bronze medal bout with Brazil’s Nathalia Brigida, while Jeong defeated Ukraine’s Maryna Cheniak to claim the other medal.

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