RIO DE JANEIRO – Reigning world champion Shohei Ono has claimed Japan’s first judo gold of Rio 2016 on Monday, ending a run of five bronze medals in the sport over the first three days of the Games.
Ono beat Azerbaijan’s Rustam Orujov by ippon in the men’s 73-kg division to claim gold on his Olympic debut, adding it to his two world championships titles.
“I’m really happy. I am not totally satisfied with my performance but I think I was able to convey the brilliance, beauty and strength of the sport that is judo to the people watching,” said Ono.
Earlier in the afternoon at the Carioca Arena in Barra da Tijuca, Kaori Matsumoto failed in her bid to defend her London 2012 title in the women’s 57 kg event, but she ended the day with the consolation bronze after beating Taiwan’s Lien Chen-Ling on points.
The women’s 57 kg gold went to Brazil’s 2013 world champion, Rafaela Silva, sending the Rio crowd into rapture.
Ono’s first opponent, Miguel Murillo of Costa Rica, received three penalties for passivity before the Japanese judoka placed him in a side yoko-shiho-gatame submission for ippon.
Ono then beat 2014 world bronze medalist Victor Scvortov of United Arab Emirates, deploying an inner thigh throw, saw off men’s 66-kg London Olympic champion Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia with a minor hip throw to win by waza-ari before winning his semifinal against Belgium’s Dirk van Tichelt by ippon.
The 28-year-old Matsumoto, who is also the current world champion, wasted little time on her first opponent, Zoulehia Abzetta Dabonne of Cote d’Ivoire, scoring a yuko point before finishing the match with a yoko-shiho-gatame side submission.
But she struggled to gain control in her quarterfinal against 2015 world bronze medalist Automne Pavia before beating the Frenchwoman when she deployed a sleeve-lift hip throw, sode-tsurikomi-goshi, in the golden score extra period.
Matsumoto faced the other 2015 bronze medalist, Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia, in the semis, but lost out by ippon.
Before Monday, Russia (men’s 60 kg), Argentina (women’s 48 kg), Italy (men’s 66 kg) and Kosovo (women’s 52 kg) have won one gold medal apiece — an unlikely result in a sport traditionally dominated by Japan, France, Russia and South Korea.