LONDON – Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu turned in a string of impressive bouts to win the men’s 66-kilogram freestyle at the London Games on Sunday, giving Japan its seventh gold at these Summer Games and 38th medal — a record in the country’s Olympic history.
Yonemitsu beat India’s Sushil Kumar, a bronze medalist at the Beijing Games four years ago, 2-0 to become the first Japanese man to win Olympic gold in wrestling since Takashi Kobayashi and Mitsuru Sato won the 48-kg and 52-kg freestyle in Seoul in 1988.
Yonemitsu got behind Kumar to earn the only point of the first period. Then he overturned his opponent after a powerful tackle for a three-pointer about 30 seconds into the second en route to a convincing win in the final at the ExCeL wrestling arena.
The silver medalist at last year’s world championships, Yonemitsu had a first-round bye and comfortably won the first two periods of his first match in outpointing world bronze medalist Livan Lopez of Cuba, who eliminated world champion Mehdi Sadegh Taghavi Kermani of Iran.
After being made to work hard in a 2-1 decision against Canadian Haislan Veranes Garcia, Yonemitsu got back into the groove in his semifinal against Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov, earning decisive points with a swift tackle and a tight back hold to win in two periods to book his place in the final.
Lopez and Kazakhstan’s Akzhurek Tanatarov won bronze.
In the men’s 96-kg class, Takao Isokawa of Japan crashed out in the second round with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Magomed Musaev of Kyrgyzstan and then saw his bid for a bronze medal come to end with a defeat in the repechage round.
Jacob Stephen Varner of the United States beat Ukraine’s Valerii Andriitsev to win the gold, while Georgia’s George Gogshelidze and world champion Khetag Gazyumov got bronze. Gazyumov also won bronze in Beijing.
Japan won four golds and two bronzes in the wrestling competition at the London Olympics, including triumphs by a trio of women — Hitomi Obara (48 kg), Saori Yoshida (55 kg) and Kaori Icho (63 kg).