RIO DE JANEIRO - Japan’s Hisayoshi Harasawa had to settle for the silver medal after falling to London Olympic champion Teddy Riner of France on penalties in the men’s over 100-kg class on the final day of the judo competition at the Rio Olympics on Friday.
In the women’s over-78 kg category, Kanae Yamabe took a bronze medal after defeating Turkey’s Kayra Sayit by waza-ari in a match for third place.
The 24-year-old Harasawa, who was making his Olympic debut, put up a brave fight but was no match for seven-time world champion Riner, who successfully defended the title to match countryman David Douillet as a two-time Olympic champion.
The Japanese judoka was trying to claim the heaviest weight title for the men for the first time since Satoshi Ishii accomplished the feat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
From the looks of it, the crowd at Carioca Arena in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca was expecting more fireworks in the final, but neither man was able to land the decisive blow.
Harasawa, who won the 2016 Paris Grand Slam, received two penalties early and was never able to recover. Riner, for his part, received a shido reduction with 33 seconds remaining for avoiding a hand grip, but it was too little, too late for Harasawa.
“I was hoping to keep my shido penalties down to one in the first part of the bout, but I received two and wasn’t able to catch him,” said Harasawa, who won his previous three bouts by ippon to reach the final.
“It was just as I imagined in training, but he wore me down physically and the difference in body strength was obvious.”
Riner completed his country’s sweep of the gold medals up for grabs Friday along with Emilie Andeol in the women’s over 78-kg class after France was kept off the top podium spot over the first six days of competition.
Asked if he felt any pressure to bring home the gold, Riner said, “Today I had a good sensation. This is a new gold medal but for every competition there is a little pressure. But this isn’t a problem for me because pressure is good for a big day.”
Earlier in the day, Harasawa booked a semifinal berth against 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medalist Abdullo Tangriev of Uzbekistan when his opponent in the quarterfinals, Cuba’s Alex Garcia Mendoza, lost on four shido penalties, including two illegal joint locks.
Against Tangriev, Harasawa scored a yuko for an ouchi-gari inner leg sweep and the contest ended when his 35-year-old opponent received four shido penalties for noncombativeness, setting the stage for the match with Riner.
“I thought I had a few chances when I got a grip on him but it never went my way. I still have a lot of work ahead,” said Harasawa.
Yamabe, 25, also appearing in her first Olympics, booked a quarterfinal berth with two ippon victories, but succumbed in the semis to 2012 London Olympic champion Idalys Ortiz of Cuba, who scored a yuko with an ouchi-gari.
“I thought I could have done much better in the semifinals, so I have some disappointment,” said Yamabe, a 2015 world bronze medalist. “But I was determined to bring a medal home no matter what when I fought in the next match.”
Andeol, a 2014 world bronze medalist, denied Ortiz a second consecutive Olympic title with an ippon victory in the women’s final.
Japan led the judo medals table with three golds, one silver and eight bronze, while France and Russia followed with two golds apiece. Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Kosovo, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the United States got one Olympic title each.
It was a dramatic improvement for Japan from four years ago in London, when Kaori Matsumoto, who settled for a bronze in the women’s 57 kg in Rio, took home the sole gold for Japan.