Ebinuma misses gold but salvages bronze


Masashi Ebinuma took out all his frustration on Poland’s Pawel Zagrodnik in a single burst of energy Sunday to win the bronze medal in men’s judo 66-kg category at the London Olympics.

Victory in the match for third place for the 22-year-old reigning world champion was bittersweet as he had been aiming for the gold medal in his Olympic debut. Masato Uchishiba won the gold medal for Japan in Beijing in 2008.

“There were many incidents today,” said Ebinuma. “I think I was able to get the bronze medal because the crowd was behind me. But since I was aiming for gold, this is meaningless to me.”

Ebinuma defeated Zagrodnik with a sublimely executed “ogoshi” hip throw to finish off his opponent in the overtime golden score after shooting blanks on several failed throwing attempts.

Meanwhile, there were more tears of despair for Japan’s women on the second day after Beijing Olympic bronze medalist Misato Nakamura crashed out in the women’s 52-kg class, losing her first match in the second round to Beijing silver medalist An Kum Ae of North Korea.

Ebinuma overcame controversy in the quarterfinals, but his luck run out in the semifinals against 20-year-old Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia, who dumped him with a sacrifice corner reversal for ippon 2 minutes, 11 seconds into the match.

Shavdatuashvili went on to beat Hungary’s Miklos Ungvari in the gold-medal match to win the title in his Olympic debut.

A sea of boos rained out from a bewildered crowd when the three judges raised three blue flags in favor of South Korea’s Cho Jun Ho following the quarterfinal golden score, where Ebinuma’s inner-thigh throw had been disallowed after further video inspection.

But a refereeing commission sitting at ringside reviewed video and later ordered the three judges to overturn their initial ruling in an unusual unanimous decision in favor of Ebinuma.

Ebinuma, a winner of three consecutive titles at the national invitational weight-class championships, scored an ippon in his first match and won on points in the next before his meeting with Cho.

“I gave my heart for this. I wish I could’ve controlled the distance with my opponent in my match a little more (in the semifinal that I lost),” said Ebinuma.

Nakamura, the world champion in 2009 and 2011, could find no key openings against An, the same opponent she lost to in the semifinals at the Beijing Games.

An scored a waza-ari on an outer-leg trip almost immediately, and Nakamura appeared to have later scored a waza-ari herself until it was changed to yuko after judges reviewed video.

The 32-year-old An won her first Olympic gold with a victory over Yanet Bermoy Acosta of Cuba in the final, going one better than her mark in Beijing.

“This has been a big miscalculation,” said Japan women’s coach Ryuji Sonoda. “Had things gone as planned, we would have had two (gold medals). At least we expected to have one. Having none at this point is a hard pill to swallow.”

Japan’s men’s coach Shinichi Shinohara was disappointed that Ebinuma allowed Shavdatuashvili to control their bout from start to finish.

“Ebinuma was being pulled around to and fro by his opponent in the semifinals, which is the worse position he can fall into. He was moving so well from his first match, so it was really a waste,” said Shinohara.

On Saturday, Hiroaki Hiraoka won the men’s 60-kg silver.