Individually, Japan’s judoka couldn’t be stopped across seven days of Olympic competition at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan.
But as a group they finally met their match against France in the mixed team event on Saturday, falling in the gold medal bout by a score of 4-1.
Japan ends the Olympics with nine gold medals, two silvers and one bronze in the judo in Tokyo — a record haul since it became an Olympic event for men in 1964 and for women in 1992.
The new teams event meant a 15th judo gold was on offer on top of the seven weight categories each for men and women.
Three women in the under-57 kg, under-70 kg and over-70 kg weight classes and three men in the under-73 kg, under-90 kg and over-90 kg weights each faced off one by one in the team event.
In the final, France’s Teddy Riner beat Japanese gold medalist Aaron Wolf by an inner thigh throw to score a waza-ari win in a grueling Golden Score sudden-death overtime, bringing his country closer to gold in the new team contest.
His teammate Sarah Leonie Cysique followed suit, defeating Japan’s Tsukasa Yoshida by a waza-ari inner thigh throw to make it a 4-1 victory.
Japan had got off to a shaky start in the quarterfinals when Uta Abe and Shohei Ono, both individual gold medalists in Tokyo, lost to Germany’s Theresa Stoll and Igor Wandtke.
But Japan’s four other judokas beat their German opponents to win 4-2.
The Japanese team handily beat the Russian Olympic Committee 4-0 in the semifinals.
France squeezed past Israel in the quarterfinals 4-3, with the help of Riner, who gave Israel’s Or Sasson a combination of two waza-aris — a floating throw and a straddle hold — to make it an ippon win.
The French then powered through their semifinal against the Netherlands.
France’s win helped Riner add to his collection of Olympic medals.
With Saturday’s win, Riner, 32, now has a tally of three golds and two bronze medals from his Olympics appearances.
The success helped to make up for his shock loss in Friday’s quarterfinals in the men’s over-100 kg individual contest against Tamerlan Bashaev of the Russian Olympic Committee. The Frenchman had to settle for the bronze medal.
The two bronze medals in the team competition were awarded to Germany and Israel.