Funa Tonaki earned Japan’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympics.

It just wasn’t the color she wanted.

Tonaki reached the final in her Olympic debut but could not clear the final hurdle to gold, settling for silver after falling against World No. 1 Distria Krasniqi of Kosovo in the women’s judo under-48 kg final at Nippon Budokan on Saturday.

“The Olympics is taking place in Japan, so that makes a very special competition,” Tonaki said. “I tried not to go out to fast and just compete at my own pace.”

Japan got its first gold later in the night when Naohisa Takato, who trains with the same company judo team, won the men’s under-60 gold.”

“Hopefully this gets the Japan team off to a good start,” Tonaki said.

Krasniqi won via waza-ari with an uchi-mata throw near the end of the match.

“I was very prepared,” she said. “All these years I had one goal, and it was the Olympic Games. Even when I lost in other competitions, it wasn’t important for me. I had one goal and it was here, today, and I’m very happy I managed to achieve it.”

Her medal was the second ever for Kosovo in any sport. Majlinda Kelmendi won the first in 2016 in the women’s judo under-52 kg event.

“I hope that Kosovo will not go home with only my medal,” Krasniqi said. “We have 11 athletes from all sports, five are from judo, and I’m very sure that Kosovo will go home from judo with another medal. So I’m very happy.”

Tonaki had got her day off to a winning start by beating Hungary’s Eva Csernoviczki via ippon in her first match and followed up with a win over the reigning Olympic champion, Paula Pareto of Argentina.

Tonaki had a fight on her hand in the semifinals against Ukrainian Daria Bilodid, who defeated her in the world championship final in 2018 and 2019. The pair staged a thrilling contest that ended with Tonaki winning with a yoko-shiho-gatame mat hold for ippon in the Golden Score period.

Bilodid, a two time world champion, and Mongolia’s Munkhbat Urantsetseg won the bronze medals.

Funa Tonaki of Japan reacts after winning her semifinal match on Saturday in Tokyo. | REUTERS
Funa Tonaki of Japan reacts after winning her semifinal match on Saturday in Tokyo. | REUTERS

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