2016 Rio Olympics: Brazil, Japan take judo gold on day 3

All images courtesy of NBC.com

Women’s Half-Middleweight – 126 pound – 57 kg —

Coming into Monday, it was close but no cigar when it came to the medal hopes of Brazilian women in judo. But, thanks to the performance of Rafaela Silva, the home country was able to light a victory smoke with a golden lighter.

Backed by an animated home crowd, that chanted her name and popped for every bit of her activity, Silva (ranked 13th coming into the tournament) was physical throughout all her matches, and survived an onslaught of activity from Mongolia’s Sumiya Dorjsuren, to win her country’s first judo medal of the Games.  

The fight began with both receiving inactivity shidos (yellow cards), as they tried to gain a grip on each other. Soon after, Silva avoided a Dorjusen foot sweep, and drove her opponent to the mat for what looked to be a scoring takedown. There seemed to be momentary confusion on whether or not Silva deserved credit for the waza-ari, which led to an unintentional dramatic pause by the referee, as the two fighters stood back in neutral position waiting on the restart.

Eventually, Silva received the 10 point credit and, when she did, the crowd exploded. Sensing her time was short, Dorjsuen became even more aggressive – which was impressive considering her already ravenous performance throughout the day.

It almost backfired on the world’s number one, straight away, when she tried to take Silva over with a hip-throw and was almost countered. She continued to go forward, eliciting boos from the crowd as she visibly grew frustrated with her inability to score.

Ultimately, all of the sand slipped through the hourglass and Silva, 24, who hails from the infamous Cidade de Deus (“City of God”) portion of Rio de Janiero, went charging over the crowd rail to celebrate with her fans – and assuredly terrifying the security team.

Rafaela Silva jumped into the crowd to celebrate her Gold medal victory with the fans.

Silva, 24, was disqualified during 2012’s London Games for an illegal hold against Hungary’s Hedvig Karakas. She reached the final bout on Monday by defeating Corina Caprioriu of Romania in an epic semifinal battle.

Despite both being tagged with yellow cards, neither woman paused as they attempted to grab enough of the other’s gi to force a trip or a throw. After five minutes of non-stop action, they went into golden score (sudden death extra time), where the battle continued to rage.

Rafaela Silva and Corina Caprioriu bang heads as they attempt to go on the offense.

39 seconds into extra time, Silva looked to reverse a Caprioriu takedown attempt for a score. After an initial pause, the referee indicated he would give the points to Silva but was quickly overruled by the video official at mat side.

Silva failed at a trip attempt, which Caprioriu failed to take advantage of. The Romanian took that opportunity to stay on the offense, but her attempt to pick up and possibly uranage (Rock Bottom) the Brazilian backfired when Silva shifted her body weight and got credit for the slam.

Silva’s opponent in the final, Sumiya Dorjsuren reached the final match with an explosive drop shoulder throw, seemingly out of nowhere, that ended her bout against Japan’s Kaori Matsumoto in only 24 seconds.

Sumiya Dorjsuren throws Kaori Matsumoto, in only 24 seconds, to advance to the Gold medal match.

As the English announce team talked about how Matsumoto, the fifth ranked woman at 57 kg, wanted to bring the Gold medal home for her mother, Dorjsuren, 25, dropped to her knees, tossing the Japanese over her shoulders, ending the bout immediately.

As a result of their semifinal losses, Caprioriu and Matsumoto would face off against the winners of the two repechage (loser’s brackets) matches to see who would win Bronze.

First, Caprioriu, 30, who was ranked seventh in the world coming into the tournament, and was 2012’s Silver medalist in London, took on Portugal’s Telma Monteiro.

Coming into the Games, Monterio, 30, was the five-time, defending, European Champion, but didn’t seem to figure into the division’s plans. The Portuguese standout had been a four-time runner-up in the World Championships, but an unmitigated failure at the Olympic level.

With finishes of 12th (2004), 9th (2008 – two years after becoming the top ranked fighter of her class), and 17th (2012), and a current world ranking of nine, it looked as if the last Olympiad for Monterio could end in disappointment, as Caprioriu came into the bout looking strong.

But, it was Monterio who struck first. After a tomoe-nage attempt (which, to a layman looks as though the person is dropping to their back to pull guard, but instead puts his feet on their opponent’s thighs, and monkey flips them over), Monterio earned extra points via yuko (pin) by holding Caprioriu for more than ten seconds, before the Romanian was able to defend.

After a restart, Caprioriu attempted an armbar, which Monterio defended – but also showed the effects of, holding her left shoulder as she regained her feet. With half the round to go, she continued to protect the arm, as well as possible – dangerously earning three shidos (yellow cards) along the way – while fending off the somewhat-lethargic Caprioriu.

Monterio had defeated 2012 Bronze medalist Automne Pavia, 27, of France, to qualify for the medal bout. Pavia had dropped her quarterfinal contest to Kaori Matsumoto, being thrown to end what was an extremely entertaining bout, that went 3:50 into golden score.

Matsumoto claimed the other Bronze medal by defeating Lien Chen-Ling, 28, of Chinese Tapei.

To show the depth of the division, Matsumoto, 28, was the 2012 Gold medal winner in London, is the defending World Champion, but came into the contest only ranked fifth in the world.

Ling had defeated Hungary’s Hedvig Karakas to qualify for the bout.

Women’s Half-Middleweight – 126 pound (57 kg) Final Standings:
Gold: Rafaela Silva (BRA)
Silver: Sumiya Dorjsuren (MGL)
Bronze: Telma Monteiro (MLG)
Bronze: Kaori Matsumoto (JPN)
Men’s Half-Middleweight – 161 pound – 73 kg —

All the wounds from four years ago may, or may not, be healed. But on Monday, thanks to Shohei Ono’s victory, a nation of judoka enthusiasts can breathe a little bit easier.

Shohei Ono wraps himself in a Japanese flag thrown to him from the stands after his Gold medal victory.

Ono claimed Japan’s first men’s Gold medal since 2008 when he avoided any missteps against Rustam Orujov, throwing the Azerbaijani twice.

Both came out throwing caution to the wind, seemingly trying to end things as quickly as possible. About 90-seconds through the five-minute round, Ono completed an uchi-mata (an inner thigh throw, that’s one of the most recognizable to even non-judo viewers) for a score. While on the mat, Orujov worked to trap Ono – who ended up with a shido (yellow card penalty) for stalling defense.

Behind on points, Orujov’s aggressiveness increased, which played well into his Japanese opponent’s hands. Approximately two minutes after the initial score, Orujov worked for a trip takedown, leaving himself way off-balance, which allowed Ono to land a trip of his own, sealing the bout.

Coming into the main event slot of Monday’s judo activity, it had been a rather rough few days for the Japanese contingent. While most nations wouldn’t be upset over going 5-for-5 in Bronze medal matches, most nations don’t historically dominate a competition in the way that Japan has, either.

Judo debuted as an Olympic sport for 1964’s Tokyo Games, and became a regular part of the event beginning with Munich in 1972. Since then Japan has claimed 33 gold medals, including 26 men’s. But, that historically vaunted men’s team was completely shut out at 2012’s London Games – a painful and embarrassing first, that it’s storied national federation was not looking forward to repeating.

Before Monday, the last top step judoka were heavyweight Satoshi Ishii and half-lightweight Masato Uchishiba, during Beijing’s Games in 2008.

To get to the finals, Ono had defeated Dirk Van Tichelt of Belgium, while Orujov advanced with a victory over the world’s number three 161 pounder, Israel’s Sagi Muki. After their respective losses, Van Tichelt and Muki would be off to the bronze medal matches where their paths would diverge.

Van Tichelt faced Miklos Ungvari of Hungary, and didn’t waste any time ending his day.

Initially, Van Tichelt attempted to mount Ungvari’s back, and work for a choke. Ungvari immediately began to defend, but left his left arm exposed. Not wasting any time, the Belgian transitioned into an armbar, which he straightened out on, to get the quick tap-out.

Dirk Van Tichelt defeats Miklos Ungvari with an ARM-BAR~! for the Bronze medal.

Ungvari, who turns 36 in October, almost assuredly ends his Olympic career with four appearances, earning a Silver medal during 2012’s London Games. The Hungarian earned a trip into the bronze medal match by defeating American Nick Delpopolo during the repechage.

Halfway through their encounter, both Ungvari and Delpopolo were issued shidos for inactivity, as they jockeyed each other for control. The American picked up another yellow card, nearly a minute later, as he just couldn’t get anything going against his stronger opponent.

Delpopolo garnered negative attention in 2012 when he was sent home from London for failing a pre-Games drug test. After losing during the repechage round, the Montenegro-born fighter was told he tested positive for marijuana, which he claimed was due to unintentionally ingesting a pot-laced brownie.  

In the other bronze contest, Israel’s Muki faced Georgian Lasha Shavdatuashvili.

Having the tough spot of following the women’s gold medal war, this bout ended up being somewhat of a popcorn match. Shavdatuashvili came out much more aggressive, and stayed on the attack. The Georgian never allowed the defending European Champion to get on track – something the Israeli also didn’t seem to do in the semifinals against Orujov. Receiving a yellow card for stalling early, Muki’s day came to an end – with a literal thud – as Shavdatuashvili drove him into the mat for the finish.

Earlier, Shavdatuasvili had defeated Denis Iartcev of Russia in the repechage to advance into the medal stage.

Men’s Half-Middleweight – 161 pound (73 kg) Final Standings:
Gold: Shohei Ono (JPN)
Silver: Rustam Orujov (AZE)
Bronze: Dirk Van Tichelt (BEL)
Bronze: Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO)

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