INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – This was anything but the day Japan expected on Saturday, the first day of the judo competition at the 17th Asian Games.
Mongolia walked off with two of the four gold medals on offer, with Misato Nakamura defending her title in the women’s 52-kg class to take the only top podium spot for her country as the four-day competition got underway at Dowon Gymnasium.
Nakamura, who made comeback from surgery on her left knee two years ago, scored an ippon against Gulbadam Babamuratova of Turkmenistan in the final for the Japanese delegation’s first gold medal of the 16-day event.
“I am very happy to win this gold medal,” said Nakamura. “I didn’t think of these Games as a preparation for Rio, but I was determined to get a great result here as I aim for the 2016 Rio Games. Now I have to figure out how to progress from here to get there,” she said.
Emi Yamagishi, making her debut in these Games at 48 kg, had three straight ippon victories from her first match before falling to world champion Urantsetseg Munkhbat of Mongolia, who deployed a side submission technique to score waza-ari, in the final.
“I was aiming for a gold medal so I’m disappointed to lose,” said Yamagishi. “I was nervous and things didn’t really go my way today,” she said.
Tomofumi Takajo was defeated by Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj of Mongolia in the men’s 66-kg final.
“From my first match I tried to fight my brand of judo, but in the final I regret that I got locked into my opponent’s pace. I have to start over from scratch,” he said.
Toru Shishime defeated Uzbekistan’s Sharafuddin Lutfillaev, scoring a yuko, in a match for third place to win a bronze along with Kim Won Jin for the host nation in the men’s 60 kg. Yeldos Smetov of Kazakhstan, who beat Shishime in the semifinals, beat Mongolian Boldbaatar Ganbat for the gold.
Japan topped the judo medals podium at the Guangzhou Games in 2010 with 15 against South Korea’s 14.
In other medal events, Yukiko Inui and Risako Mitsui earned a silver medal in the synchronized swimming duet free routine, scoring 91.8667 points to finish second to China’s Huang Xuechen and Sun Wenyan.
There was also a silver in the equestrian in the dressage event won by South Korea with 71.746 points ahead of Japan’s 69.842.
Daisuke Ichikizaki gave Japan its first medal when he won the bronze in the Wushu men’s changquan final.
“It’s an honor to accomplish my mission of getting the first medal (for Japan),” said Ichikizaki.