BEIJING – Tomohiro Matsunaga hoped to spring a surprise gold medal for Japan on Tuesday but had to settle for second place after losing to American Henry Cejudo in the men’s freestyle 55 kg at the Beijing Olympics.
Cejudo denied Matsunaga the chance to win Japan’s first gold since the 1988 Seoul Games. Japan’s Kenichi Yumoto, meanwhile, dominated Bazar Bazarguruev to take the bronze at 60 kg.
Matsunaga, whose mild-mannered demeanor masks a fierce competitor inside, said he regretted that he was unable to prevent Cejudo from grabbing his leg for a tackle in the second period after the American narrowly beat him in the first at China Agricultural University Gymnasium.
“I wish I could change the part of the final where he pulled out my leg. I can’t deny that I’m disappointed not to win the gold, but I’m also happy to win a medal,” Matsunaga said.
Cejudo said he had studied some of Matsunaga’s moves before facing him in the final, in particular scenes from when the Japanese wrestler won the Asian championship title this year.
“I’ve watched him wrestle. I watched him in the Asian Games. The Japanese in the Olympics always come up and show their best performance. I knew from the start it would be tough,” Cejudo said.
In the 60-kg contest, Yumoto, who had a bye into the second round, won by fall against his first opponent Vitaly Koryakin of Tajikistan and downed India’s Yogeshwar Dutt in the quarterfinals, but lost to European champion Vasyl Fedoryshyn of Ukraine on points in the semis.
“I had hoped to go for gold, but I had confidence in my tackles and executed them well today,” said Yumoto.
The two medals for Japan in men’s wrestling follow the haul of two golds, a silver and a bronze for the country’s women at the Beijing Games.