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The 11th World Kendo Championships (WKC) were fantastic--with all the international pomp & circumstance of the Olympics--but with everyone wearing kendo armor and wielding swords (if only bamboo ones). The tournament was held over three days full of exciting matches and surging national pride.
|The WKC brought over 500 athletes from 40 countries to Santa Clara, California. Besides perennial top finishers Japan and Korea, countries as far away as Aruba, Finland, South Africa, and Venezuela fielded teams. The United States had two teams of men and women players, splitting Hawaii off as a separate team.|
The huge men's individual draw looked like NCAA March Madness on
steroids, as round robin matches weeded out competitors before entry into the Round of 64.
Japan's Naoki Eiga emerged as men's individual champion after besting teammate Kentaro
In the men's team competition, Team USA put up a good fight, only to be knocked out of contention by 2nd place Korea. Team Canada almost spoiled powerhouse Japan's run to the finals but ended up losing to the eventual tournament champions.
|For the first time in international kendo history, official competion in women's kendo crowned individual and team champions. Japan's Tomoko Kawano won the individual final against teammate Keiko Baba.|
Team USA made it to the womens' team semifinals but was eliminated by Japan in some intense battles. On the other side of the draw, Brazil trounced Canada for a shot at the finals, only to be defeated by Japan. But with strong interest and further development of women's kendo, I'm sure it won't be long until Team USA gains the championship.
|The men of Team USA fought well too, with several members garnering "fighting spirit" awards--awards presented at the end of each day to the players who exhibited the true spirit of budo. We're sure to see these guys in three years at the next world championships, ready to avenge their Y2K loss.|
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