Dumitru, Choi win judo gold at Olympics

Aug. 09, 2008, 12:29 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Ryoko Tani's years of being an unbeatable force in judo's lightest weight class ended Saturday - and new Olympic champion Alina Dumitru of Romania couldn't be happier.

Dumitru ousted Tani - a seven-time world champion from Japan 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.

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

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

Tani saw her hopes of a third-straight Olympic gold evaporate when judges awarded a penalty to Dumitru after both failed to show much aggression. Looking stunned, Tani fought back desperately, but with only seconds left had no time to mount an attack.

She defeated Russia's Lyudmila Bogdanova for bronze, throwing the tall Russian to the mat with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the five-minute bout.

From the start, Tani was not in her usual attacking mode.

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.

Tani, who failed to win Japan's national championships but made the Olympic team largely because she won the world championship last year, was surprisingly defensive again in the semifinal. She and Dumitru both took repeated cautions for not attacking enough, but Dumitru went ahead when the judges called Tani for a third time.

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.

She tried to make the best of her bronze.

"This is my fifth Olympics and I have won a medal in each one," she said. "So I am happy."

Bermoy, who won the 2005 world championship when Tani sat it out to have a baby, won silver in her Olympic debut. She had lost only four bouts this year before Saturday's final.

Argentina's Paula Pareto flipped North Korea's Pak Ok Song at the buzzer to win the second women's bronze. The judges initially called Pak the winner, but then gave Pareto a point to 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."

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

"His first attack was very explosive," Paischer said. "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. He hasn't won a major victory since he took the world championship in 2003.

"I seem to always be in third place," he said.

Paischer 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 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 a major threat for the gold and his loss quickly ended Japan's hopes of starting off the judo event with a double.

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