Akira Sone threw another gold medal on top of the impressive pile Japan has built on the judo mat at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sone secured the nation’s ninth gold medal in the sport with a victory over Cuba’s Idalys Ortiz in the women’s over-78 kg final on Friday at Nippon Budokan. Japan also has a silver and bronze in judo.
“My goal was to win a gold medal at these Olympic games,” Sone said. “So I’ve been prepared for this. I feel very happy and relieved to win the gold medal.”
The medal was also Japan’s 16th gold of the Tokyo Games, which matched the nation’s best showing during a Summer Games, first achieved at the Tokyo Games in 1964 and again in Athens in 2004. The record was broken later in the night when Japan's fencing team struck gold in men's team epee.
Sone was the first of Japan’s judoka to qualify for the 2020 games, punching her ticket in November 2019, and had long dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal.
“I’ve gone through many difficult times, and I’ve always told myself to try at least three times," Sone said. "This was my motto and I’m happy I was able to reach my goal.”
Sone won the match via ippon in the Golden Score period after Oritz was charged with her third penalty of the encounter at the 8:52 mark of the match.
“Akira Sone is a great athlete,” Ortiz said. “She is very young, she is very talented, and we knew beforehand if she ended up being my opponent she would be very difficult to beat.”
Ortiz became the fourth women to earn at least four medals in judo, having also won bronze in 2008, gold in 2012 and silver in 2016. Ryoko Tani owns the record for the most with five.
The bronze medals went to France's Romane Dicko and Iryna Kindzerska, of Azerbaijan, who is the first women from her country to earn an Olympic medal in judo.
There was only one gold on the judo mat for Japan on Friday, however, as Hisayoshi Harasawa fell to Lukas Krpalek, of the Czech Republic, in the men’s over-100 kg semifinal earlier in the day. Harasawa later lost to 10-time world champion Teddy Riner of France in one of the bronze medal matches.
Krpalek later defeated Georgia's Guram Tushishvili for gold and the other bronze went to ROC athlete Tamerlan Bashaev.
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