The Abe family had a night to remember on Sunday at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan.
Japan’s Abe siblings completed a golden judo double at the Tokyo Olympics, with younger sister Uta winning the women’s 52-kilogram division shortly before older brother Hifumi snared the men’s 66-kg crown.
Having beaten France’s Amandine Buchard for gold, 21-year-old Uta cheered for 23-year-old Hifumi from the edge of the mats, leaping jubilantly as he prevailed over Georgia’s Vazha Margvelashvili in the final.
Their victories at the historic Nippon Budokan took Japan’s gold medal tally to five, including three from judo, and made them the first Japanese brother and sister to capture gold on the same day of Olympic competition.
Uta became the first Japanese gold medalist in her division, as well as its youngest-ever champion, while Hifumi is the first Japanese judoka to win his class since Masato Uchishiba at the 2008 Beijing Games.
“I think we put our names in history, and we were able to change history,” Hifumi said.
The elder Abe defeated Margvelashvili in the final after deploying an outer leg sweep late in the second minute of regulation to earn a waza-ari point.
Competing in her first Olympics, Uta fought her toughest battle of the tournament in the final against reigning European champion Buchard.
With the pair deadlocked through regulation, Abe pinned Buchard for a golden-score ippon victory after 4 minutes, 27 seconds of extra time.
“In the past four years, I was really working hard for these games, so I am very glad that my efforts paid off,” Uta said.
“(Buchard) is a rival and someone I really respect. …I am very happy I beat her at the end.”
A two-time world champion, the younger Abe had powered her way to the gold medal match, starting with an ippon win over Brazilian Larissa Pimenta in the opening round.
In her quarterfinal against Briton Chelsie Giles, she scored the decisive point with a waza-ari in the last 30 seconds of regulation.
Her semifinal against Rio de Janeiro Olympic silver medalist, Italy’s Odette Giuffrida, lasted just over three minutes into golden-score extra time before the Japanese threw her opponent to the mat for victory by waza-ari.
Hifumi booked his final berth with an ippon against Brazilian Daniel Cargnin, toppling him with a seoi-nage shoulder throw after 2:25 of the semifinal.
He opened his campaign with a golden-score ippon win against France’s Kilian Le Blouch before outpointing Mongolian Baskhuu Yondonperenlei in the quarterfinals.
This wasn’t the first time the Abe siblings have struck gold at the same competition.
Hifumi won his first world title in 2017, and Uta joined him a year later, making it a golden double for the Abe family in Baku, Azerbaijan.
After chasing her brother’s shadow for most of her early life, Uta is now the one leading the way.
She has established herself as one of judo’s most dominant athletes, and at one point racked up 48 consecutive wins against non-Japanese opponents.
But she says she has Hifumi to thank for the part he has played in her career.
“I couldn’t have made it this far without my older brother,” she recently told the Tokyo 2020 website. “It’s impossible to know if I would have even started learning judo without him.”
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