Dumitru, Choi win judo gold at Olympics

Aug. 09, 2008, 9:56 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Romania's Alina Dumitru won the first gold medal in the Olympic judo competition Saturday, stunning Japanese double gold medalist Ryoko Tani in the 48-kilogram class semifinal and then flipping Cuba's Yanet Bermoy to the mat in the final.

"My Japanese opponent is one of the greatest judo champions of all time," said Dumitru, who said she nearly quit four years ago while toiling under Tani's shadow. "I want to congratulate her."

Dumitru ousted Tani - a seven-time world champion who hasn't lost a major international competition since 1996 - in a semifinal decided on penalties. Dumitru then flipped Cuba's Yanet Bermoy to the mat in the final to win the 48-kilogram division gold, judo's first of the Beijing Games.

South Korea's Choi Min-ho, who won bronze in Athens, threw all of his opponents to win the men's 60-kilogram division.

Tani, who hadn't been beaten in a major international competition since the Atlanta Games in 1996, saw her hopes of a third-straight gold evaporate when judges awarded penalties to Dumitru after both failed to show much aggression.

Looking stunned, Tani fought desperately after the final penalty call, but with only seconds left had no time to mount an attack.

She defeated Russia's Lyudmila Bogdanova for bronze.

An underdog, Choi completely dominated his competition and defeated Paischer, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, just seconds into their final match.

But Tani, a seven-time world champion, was the surprise of the day.

Though she won her bronze decisively - throwing the tall Russian to the mat with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the five-minute bout - she had to go the distance with Sayaka Matsumoto of the United States in her first bout, cautiously dominating the match and winning on points. Matsumoto was scoreless.

China's Wu Shugen - and a roaring partisan crowd - was next. The two were tied on points halfway through, and though Tani turned up the pressure in the second half she failed to score, forcing the match into overtime. She came through with a throw after 29 seconds.

But in the semifinal, Tani and Dumitru, who was fifth in Athens but has won four consecutive European titles, took cautions for being too defensive, then Dumitru went ahead on another penalty call.

Tani was battling to become the first woman to win three consecutive judo golds. Compatriot Tadahiro Nomura won three golds in men's, but didn't make the team this year because of an injury.

Silver medalist Bermoy, who won the 2005 world championship when Tani sat it out to have a baby, was making her Olympic debut. She had lost only four bouts this year.

Argentina's Paula Pareto flipped North Korea's Pak Ok Song at the buzzer to win the second bronze. The judges initially called Pak the winner, but then gave Pareto a waza ari, which put her ahead.

"I did not understand why the point was not given to me," Pareto said. "I was surprised when I saw the scoreboard. I knew this was my point."

The men's final was completely dominated by Choi.

"His first attack was very explosive," said Paischer, who is ranked No. 1 in the world and was favored to win. "I tried to go for his legs, and he used that very effectively against me."

Choi said he was simply happy to not be a perennial also-ran.

"I seem to always be in third place," he said, adding that he hasn't won a major victory since he took the world championship in 2003.

Paischer easily cruised into the second round after a first match "ippon" throw, setting up an early showdown with Britain's Craig Fallon, the 2005 world champion.

Fallon defeated Paischer on his home turf for the 2008 Vienna World Cup title, but Paischer got his revenge on Beijing's mats by beating Fallon - who had blood dripping off his face - with two koka points.

"I knew it was going to be a tough one, we know each other well," Fallon said. "He's had a good day and I really haven't felt up to it."

Paischer next took a yuko win over North Korea's Kim Kyong Jin to earn his spot in the semifinals against French judoka Dimitry Dragin, who is ranked 23rd in the world. He pinned Dragin just as time ran out.

The bronzes went to Uzbekistan's Rishod Sobirov and Ruben Houkes of the Netherlands.

Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka crashed out in his first bout, losing on points to U.S. entry Taraje Williams-Murray. Hiraoka, the Asian champion, was seen as a major threat for the gold and his loss quickly ended Japan's hopes of starting off with a double.

"I want revenge," he said. "I'm sorry."

Comments