Mayu Mukaida snatched the third gold medal for Japan's women's wrestling team at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, downing China's Pang Qianyu 5-4 in the 53-kilogram final.
The 24-year-old Mukaida, the world silver medalist in the category in 2017 and 2019, followed sisters Yukako and Risako Kawai, who claimed golds at 62 kg and 57 kg, respectively, earlier this week at Makuhari Messe Hall.
The weight category is the same in which Saori Yoshida lost against American Helen Maroulis at the 2016 Rio Games after a streak of 16 consecutive Olympic and world titles.
But Mukaida, who like Yoshida is a native of Mie Prefecture, responded brilliantly to high expectations to regain Japan's supremacy in the "post-Yoshida" era. She is the first Olympic gold medalist to emerge from the Japanese Olympic Committee's Elite Academy, where she trained as a youth in Tokyo.
In the final, Pang rattled the Japanese wrestler early, taking a 4-0 lead in the first period, but Mukaida was not to be denied as she clawed her way back by scoring four points with leg tackles to tie it in the second stanza and earned the decisive point with 15 seconds remaining.
"In the end, I was just praying, and kept this feeling that I would win no matter what," Mukaida said. "It was my goal to win this title so I am very happy," she said.
Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus and Mongolia's Bolortuya Bat Ochir won bronze medals at 53 kg.
At 50 kg, Yui Susaki, one of Japan's flagbearers at the Tokyo Games, blazed her way through the competition, with consecutive 10-0 fall victories in her first two bouts before an 11-0 rout of Azerbaijan's Mariya Stadnik, a two-time Olympic silver medalist at 48 kg, to reach Saturday's final.
Susaki, the 2018 world champion, will meet China's Sun Yanan, who rallied in a thrilling match as the clock ticked down to beat American Sarah Hildebrandt 10-7 in the other semifinal.
In men's freestyle, 21-year-old American Gable Steveson raised the roof with a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the 125-kg final over Georgian Geno Petriashvili, a three-time world champion and bronze medalist at the Rio Games.
Steveson overcame an 8-7 deficit after he had taken an early 4-0 lead in the first period, scoring three technical points with just six seconds remaining to take the gold in a 10-8 victory. The bronze medals went to Iran's Amir Hossein Zare and Taha Akgul of Turkey.
At 74 kg, Russian Zaurbek Sidakov, the 2019 world champion, stunned Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau of Belarus 7-0 to win the gold medal. American Kyle Dake grabbed a bronze medal, as did Uzbekistan's Bekzod Abdurakhmonov.
Earlier, Japan's Takuto Otoguro booked a spot in Saturday's 65-kg final, winning his three bouts of the day, with the 2018 world champion edging past Russian Gadzhimurad Rashidov 3-2 in the semifinal.
In Saturday's final, Otoguro, whose older brother Keisuke was eliminated at 74 kg on Thursday, will face Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan, a 57-kg freestyle bronze medalist at the Rio Games.
At 97 kg, Russian Abdulrashid Sadulaev and Kyle Snyder of the United States will meet in Saturday's final.
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