• Kyodo


Defending champion Ryoko Tani defeated Frederique Jossinet of France in the women’s 48-kg class Saturday to claim Japan’s first gold medal at the Athens Olympics, while Tadahiro Nomura won the men’s 60-kg final for a historic third straight Olympic gold.

News photoJapan’s Ryoko Tani (left) celebrates after defeating France’s Frederique Jossinet in the women’s 48-kg class to claim Japan’s first gold medal of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Both Tani and Nomura mowed down opponents with ippon victories in each of their matches en route to the final.

Nomura claimed victory over Nestor Khergiani of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia on points and made history as the first person to win three consecutive golds in Olympic judo.

He also became the only Japanese athlete to accomplish the feat in any individual event at the Summer Games.

Tani reached the final match with a decisive ippon of Romania’s Alexandra Alina Dumitru, while Nomura took toppled Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar of Mongolia with a devastating osotogari technique.

In the quarterfinals, Nomura needed just 14 seconds to dispose of Miguel Albarracin of Argentina with a powerful uchimata leg trip.

Nomura was awarded another ippon for a perfectly timed throw of Oliver Gussenberg of Germany in the third round, while Tani handily dispatched Algerian opponent Soraya Hadad to reach the quarterfinals.

In the second round, Tani pinned local favorite Maria Karagiannopoulou to win her first match, while Nomura defeated Modesto Lara of Dominica.

Tani, previously known as Tamura, won her first Olympic gold under her new surname after marrying Orix BlueWave outfielder Yoshitomo Tani.

Her husband is looking for gold with Japan’s national baseball team.

China tops Japan

ATHENS (Kyodo) Japan made the worst possible start to its Olympic debut in the women’s field hockey tournament after a 3-0 loss to China in their opening Pool A match at the Athens Games on Saturday.

World No. 11 Japan, which entered the tournament a dark horse for the title, went 1-0 down after seven minutes at Olympic Hockey Center on a goal from Fu Baorong.

Held 0-0 by the Netherlands and beaten 2-0 by Australia this week in tuneup matches, Japan rarely looked like it would end its goal drought, and China doubled its lead on 39 minutes through Tang Chunling.

Looking to improve on its fifth-place finish at the 2000 Sydney Games, World No. 4 China wrapped up the win when Chen Qiuqi scored from a tight angle in the 67th minute.

“China’s power play and long reach proved too much for us,” said Japan coach Zenjiro Yasuda after the match. “I think we needed to put more pressure on their defense, but we were too cautious going forward.”

Japan forward Sachimi Iwao admitted China had been the better side, but she said the loss was a good lesson for the future.

“In the first half, we didn’t have power. We concentrated only on defense and we have to play more aggressively without giving space to the other team,” said Iwao.

“We were under pressure from China’s defense in the first half. We have to be more energetic, especially against China, which is a very good defensive team. This was a very good lesson for the future.”

Brazil dominates

ATHENS (Kyodo) Japan suffered a straight-sets loss to powerhouse Brazil in the women’s volleyball preliminaries at the Athens Olympics on Saturday, putting a damper on the squad’s campaign to win its first Games medal in 20 years.

The Brazilians controlled the match throughout, overwhelming the Japanese team with their height and power for a 25-21, 25-22, 25-21 victory in the Pool A contest at Peace and Friendship Stadium.

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