(Beijing, China) - Taylor Takata (Colorado Springs, Colo. / Wahiawa, Hawaii) placed ninth in his Olympic debut in the 66kg division on Sunday at the Beijing University of Science and Technology Gymnasium.
Takata finish is the best result in the first two days of competition at the Games for a U.S. judo player.
In the first round, Takata and four-time World Cup medalist Tariel Zintiridis (GRE) fought for a scoreless five minutes, but Takata won the match in Golden Score (overtime) when he threw Zintiridis with a kata guruma (fireman's carry) for a yuko (quarter-point) score.
Takata controlled his second match against seven-time World Cup medalist Dex Elmont (NED) who received a penalty for stalling late in the match. Although Takata attacked again, he was awarded a penalty of his own for stalling with 15 seconds remaining in the match. The penalties sent Takata to another Golden Score session where he won the match on another stalling penalty given to Elmont.
"It was a good win for me. He's a tough player and I'm glad I got the win," said Takata who appeared to be no worse for the wear after two overtime periods. "I can't talk about anyone else's conditioning, but I'm in good shape and I try to use all of my strengths on the mat."
In the quarter-finals, Takata fought well against Yordanis Arencibia (CUB), but couldn't seem to throw the four-time World and 2004 Olympic medalist. Takata picked up two penalties during the match, giving Arencibia the win.
Takata dropped down to the repechage where he led by a penalty committed by Amin El Hady (EGY), but was thrown for ippon (instant win) in the fourth minute.
"I'm pretty disappointed, but I thought I fought well for my first Olympic Games," Takata said. "I could've won that match, but that's the way judo is. Sometimes you just get caught for a second and then it's over."
Takata's competition at the Olympic Games was the culmination of a long journey. A two-time Pan American Champion who was favored to make the team in the 60kg division in 2004, Takata moved up to 66kg when the United States didn't qualify for the Games at 60kg. Although a withdrawal in the division opened up the slot shortly before the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Judo, Takata stayed at 66kg, but lost at the Trials on penalties to the eventual Olympian.
After several years of moving among the U.S. rankings, Takata held the #1 ranking this year and dominated his U.S. opponents to win the Trials in June and a berth on his first Olympic Team.
"It's been great to be here and experience the Olympics and fight the best guys in the world," Takata said. "Now I just want to take in as much as I can and enjoy being here."
After the Games, Takata plans to turn his focus toward finishing his education.
"I think I'm going to take it day by day, go back to Colorado and gather my thoughts," Takata said. "I took a year and a half off from school to train for the Olympics, so once I go back to Colorado I want to go back to school and finish things up."