LONDON – Japan plunged to fresh depths of humiliation Friday, when Daiki Kamikawa crashed out in the second round of the over-100 kg at the London Games, leaving the country’s men with no judo gold medals for the first time in Olympic history.
Mika Sugimoto, meanwhile, breezed through to the semifinals in the women’s over-78 kg class, giving the women one more shot at glory after winning just one gold at 57 kg through Kaori Matsumoto.
Kamikawa was Japan’s final chance for men’s gold on the last day of judo competition in London, but the 2010 open weight category world champion suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Ihar Makarau of Belarus after he was hemmed up on the mat in his second match.
Japan’s men had won gold medals in all 10 Olympics, excluding the 1980 Moscow Games in which they did not participate, since the introduction of the judo competition at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
“The only option was winning the championship. When I was put into the submission hold I was frantic. I was weak,” said Kamikawa.
In 1988, Hitoshi Saito saved face for his country on the final day of judo competition at the Seoul Olympics, when he grabbed the only gold for Japan’s men in what was then the heaviest category of over-95 kg, but Kamikawa never even came close on this day.
Makarau brought Kamikawa to the mat with a half-baked shoulder throw, but he scored a yuko point when he placed the 2011 Japanese national weight-class champion into a scarf-hold submission that Kamikawa escaped after 19 seconds.
Kamikawa, who got off to a flying start with sweeping hip throw for an ippon against Guatemala’s Darrel Castillo in his first match, tried to rebound with a body-drop technique against Makarau as time ran out, but it was too little, too late.
“I’m very disappointed because it’s been my goal for a long time to win the gold medal,” said Kamikawa.
Sugimoto, winner of titles at over-78 kg and in the open weight category at the 2010 world championships, sent two opponents to the mat via ippon — Venezuela’s Giovanna Blanco and Brazilian Maria Suelen Altheman — with her trademark “haraigoshi” hip throw to reach the final four.
Also in the over-100 kg, four-time world champion Teddy Riner of France started things off slowly, winning on points against Poland’s Janusz Wojnarowicz, but slammed Faicel Jaballah of Tunisia to the mat with a well-timed hip throw for ippon in his second match. He reached the semis with a victory over Cuba’s Oscar Brayson.