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Junichi Komori (74) and the Janpanese invasion

Posted by on July 26, 2015

Junichi Komori (74) and the Janpanese invasion

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Junichi Komori: three team world titles and a world record

TOKYO - The golden years of Raymond Ceulemans were in full swing, the Belgian giant ran from one to the other world title in three cushion and nobody could stop the phenom. Johan Scherz, the little Austrian, could not, the Dutchman Rini van Bracht, Raymond Steyaerts, Enrique Navarra, one by one, they had to recognize the supremacy of the fabulous master.

And then the Japanese appeared on stage: Nobuaki Kobayashi, Junichi Komori (who deceased from cancer today at the age of 74), Koya Ogata, Yoshio Yoshihara, Yoshihiko Mano, Tatsuo Arai...

The highlights: three world titles for Kobayashi and Komori in the first two years of the World championship for nation teams. Kobayashi's world title in Antwerp, 1974... and second and third places for Kobayashi, Komori and Yoshihara Ogata at the World championship. Koya Ogata finished second twice in Düren 1968 and Tokyo in 1969, Nobuaki Kobayashi was the best of all Japanese in the years that Ceulemans was on his very best. He was second at the World championships in Las Vegas in 1970 (where Ceulemans took his 100th title), second in Buenos Aires in 1972, second in Cairo in 1973.

Junich Komori sparkled with three third places in a World championship and improved a legendary world record high run in the Dutch league. He brought the record, that was held by Willie Hoppe (25) to 28 in Zundert, 1993, later equalled by Raymond Ceulemans (1997), Roland Forthomme (2012) and Frédéric Caudron (2013).

The World championship in Antwerp, in 1974, of all places, the backyard of Raymond Ceulemans himself, who had taken eleven world titles in a row, was a memorable Japanese success. Nobuaki Kobayashi showed his high class from the start and announced the attack on the legend to.

The ninth round was sensational: Raymond Ceulemans lost to his countryman Ludo Dielis, Nobuaki Kobayashi was defeated by Yoshio Yoshihara. The finale brought the crowd on the banks. The Japanese led 34-12 after twenty innings, then Ceulemans hit back and took the lead 52-47. The Belgian had the gold medal in sight, ran out to 59-54, but then Kobayashi struck ruthlessly by a final run of six! It was his first world title after three second places.

The breakthrough of the Japanese was there. The generation with Kobayashi and Komori was the most successful, many years later Ryuuji Umeda took the world title in Cuenca, Ecuador, 2007. They were with their world titles for teams in 1981 and 1985 the first winners in a row in the championship that was later ruled by Torbjörn Blomdahl and Michael Nilsson and by Eddy Merckx and Frédéric Caudron for Belgium in the last three years.

Junichi Komori (left) on the podium with Raymond Ceulemans and Nobuaki Kobayashi

Junichi Komori took his first podium at a World championship individual Komori in Oostende, 1976, where he finished third after Raymond Ceulemans and Nobuaki Kobayashi. Two years later: the same trio on stage in Las Vegas, as well as in the Netherlands in 1985, again with Ceulemans, Kobayashi and Komori.

Junichi will be remembered, except for the two world titles with the Japanese team, as the likeable player, who was such a wonderful, immobile and strongly focussed appearance at the table. ,, He was a gentleman, a great person'', said the Spanish triple world champion Dani Sánchez, who was one of Junichi's great friends as a young, upcoming player. ,,He was one of my teachers.''

Raymond Ceulemans (from New York): ,,He was a fantastic person, but he didn't speak English that well, so it was hard to speak with him. Anyway, you could feel that he was a warm and good person, a gentleman. This is very bad news, I didn't know that he was sick.''

Torbjörn Blomdahl (,,I cried when I heard the news'') reacted from New York:,,My sincere condolences to his family. He was maybe the most elegant player ever and a very friendly person. Rest in peace, dear Komori-san. We will miss you.''

Dani Sánchez was one of the first to get the sad news from Japan on the early Sunday morning. ,,I got a call from Umeda san that Junichi had passed away'', said the Spaniard.

Junichi Komori (born July 11, 1941) was not seen for a long time at the international tournaments. He suffered from the disease of cancer.

Junichi Komori (middle) with Dieter Müller, Tatsuo Arai, Torbjörn Blomdahl, Ludo Dielis, Christ van der Smissen, Sang Lee, Rini van Bracht, Richard Bitalis and Raymond Ceulemans

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