Shohei Ono went back-to-back as Olympic men’s 73-kilogram judo champion at the Tokyo Games on Monday following a golden-score victory over Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili.
The 29-year-old Ono had looked unbeatable on the way to gold-medal match at Nippon Budokan, but had to dig deep against Shavdatuashvili to defend the title he won five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.
With the match having entered sudden death, Ono was in danger of disqualification after picking up his second shido penalty. A third would have handed the bout to Shavdatuashvili, winner of 66-kg gold at the 2012 London Games.
After the Georgian had evaded Ono’s attempt at an uchi-mata inner thigh throw, the defending champion swept Shavdatuashvili off his feet with a decisive waza-ari ankle kick in the sixth minute of extra time.
Ono is the first judoka to win multiple Olympic golds at 73-kg and the fourth Japanese male judoka to defend an Olympic title. Japan has won six Olympic gold medals in the weight class, the most by any nation in a single judo event.
By winning Japan’s fourth judo gold medal of the Tokyo Games, he continued the host nation’s run of at least one gold on each day of competition. His match against Shavdatuashvili lasted a grueling 9 minutes, 25 seconds, his second golden score bout after his semifinal match against Tsend-Ochir Tsogtbaatar of Mongolia, who won a bronze.
“Today felt like all of the tough and grueling days after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, condensed into one day,” Ono said, who took off a year to recuperate after the Rio Games.
“All I had were pessimistic thoughts, and I was so anxious from last year. And I don’t feel that it all paid off today. My judo career is not over, and I will continue training to win over myself.”
Tsukasa Yoshida earlier claimed women’s 57-kg bronze for Japan with victory over Georgia’s Eteri Liparteliani.
Fighting in her first Olympics, Yoshida earned an ippon victory over Liparteliani after throwing the former junior world champion to the mat twice with uchi-mata.
“I was absolutely determined to win the bronze medal,” said a tearful Yoshida, whose title bid ended in a semifinal loss to eventual gold medalist Nora Gjakova of Kosovo.
“I had been aiming for the gold medal, I’m so gutted.”
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