SYDNEY — After eight long years, Ryoko Tamura finally has the gold medal that has always been just beyond her grasp, while Tadahiro Nomura completed a golden double for Japan on the opening day of the Sydney Olympics judo competition.
Four-time world champion Tamura threw down Russia’s Lioubov Brouletova for an “ippon ” victory only 38 seconds into the women’s 48-kg final at the Sydney Exhibition Center to give Japan its first gold medal at the Sydney Games.
Minutes later, Nomura completed a double for Japan in yet another missed-it-if-you-blink final as he needed only 14 seconds to topple South Korea’s Jung Bu Kyung for his second straight Olympic championship.
Following a silver medal effort by 400-meter individual medley swimmer Yasuko Tajima, the victories by the lightweight judo pair provided the Japanese delegation for the Millennium Games the kind of start that it had hoped for.
Both Tamura and Nomura had tough, grueling battles in the semifinals. Tamura squeaked past North Korean Cha Hyon Hyang on a judge’s decision while Nomura almost squandered his lead on points in the face of a comeback attempt by Cuban world champion Manolo Poulot.
Poulot and Aidyn Smagulov of Kyrgyzstan shared the men’s 60-kg bronze medals.
The women’s 48-kg bronze went to Germany’s Anna-Maria Gradante and Ann Simons of Belgium, who edged Cha following a controversial last-minute points reversal.
Tamura, who had a first-round bye, got off to a hesitant start to her campaign against China’s Zhao Shunxin, rolling the Chinese down to the mat to earn a “yuko” point just one second remaining when their match appeared headed for a judge’s decision.
Nomura also survived a scare against a Chinese opponent in his first match when Jia Yunbing hurled him down at the edge of the mat but the Japanese national champion was saved by an out-of-bounds call 45 seconds into their first-round meeting.
The Atlanta Olympic champion, however, bounced back quickly and sent Jia sprawling with a classic shoulder throw about a minute later for the first of his four ippon wins of the night.
Nomura needed less than three minutes to reach the semifinals, breezing past Brandan Greczkowski of the United States and Marek Matuszek of Slovakia, both of whom fell victim to leg sweeps.
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