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08 Aug 2016
World No. 1 An suffers surprise defeat in judo final
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 7, 2016: Korean judo pin-up An Baul has come a long way in a short time – but not quite far enough to win an Olympic gold medal. The 22-year-old world No. 1 was on course for Olympic glory in the men’s -66kg contest at the Carioca Arena 2 in Olympic Park on Sunday, reaching the final with a series of stylish victories.
But the reigning world champion was caught off guard by Italy’s flamboyant Fabio Basile, world ranked No. 29, and thrown to the tatami in a surprise defeat just 1 minute 24 seconds into the final, losing by ippon with a seoi-otoshi technique. An, the 2013 world junior champion and 2015 world and Universide champion, held his head in his hands as he crouched on the mat, and, following the obligatory “rei” (bow) to the opponent, he sat on the side of the stage trying to take in his defeat.
Showman Basile, in contrast, celebrated with a somersault - a rare sight in the conservative and traditional world of judo. It was Italy’s 200th gold medal in the Olympic Games. “It is almost impossible to explain my feelings as the day progressed,” said Basile. “This gold medal is down to a lot of sacrifice and pain since I was seven years old. It is difficult to understand that this is no longer a dream, but a reality.”
An overcame his Japanese rival, three-time world champion Masashi Ebinuma, in a tense and occasionally bad-tempered semi-final. After both players had been penalized for delay, the contest went into the golden score. When Ebinuma sank to one knee and tried to throw An over his shoulder, the Korean counter-attacked with strength and speed to put the Japanese on his back and win by yuko.
Uzbekistan’s Rishod Sobirov beat Adrian Gomboc (SLO) to take the first bronze medal on offer, showing great strength on the mat to turn him over for ippon. Ebinuma claimed the second bronze, beating Canada’s Antoine Bouchard by ippon, attacking low and rolling him over his shoulder on to the mat.
In the women’s -52 kg event, China’s Ma Yingnan and Japan’s Misato Nakamura both lost their semi-finals after accruing one delay penalty. Nakamura found herself up against home favourite Erika Miranda for a bronze medal, and the stadium resembled a football crowd as the athletes were announced.
Chants of “Erika” swept around the arena as the action got underway. Both players suffered a penalty for delay, sending the contest into the golden score. Nakamura prevailed when her swift inner thigh reap with her left leg sent Miranda tumbling on her side as the Japanese won by yuko to claim bronze.
Ma was up next against Russia’s Natalia Kuziutina, who secured the second bronze medal when the Chinese athlete could not escape from her powerful pin to the tatami for ippon. Kosovo, competing in their first Olympics, won their first gold medal through Majlinda Kelmendi, who beat Italy’s Odette Giuffrida in the final of the women’s -52kg.
Kelmendi, who represented Albania at London 2012, said it was an historic day for Kosovo, not only for sport but the whole country, and that she was proud to see the Kosovo flag and hear the anthem on the podium. She also paid tribute to Nakamura, describing her as a judo legend and saying that her semi-final victory over the Japanese judoka was her hardest fight of the day.
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