Japan takes 3rd judo gold, Georgia wins men's 90kg

Aug. 13, 2008, 9:28 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Japan won its third judo gold medal at the Olympics on Wednesday as 2004 Athens champion Masae Ueno dominated the middleweight field and quickly sent Anaysi Hernandez of Cuba to the mat in a lopsided final.

World champion Irakli Tsirekidze of Georgia won the men's 90-kilogram, and dedicated the win to his countrymen who are embroiled in a conflict with Russia in South Ossetia.

"It means very much for our country because of the conflict now," he said. "Thank you to my country, thank you to my people."

Tsirekidze appeared to point to the name of his country after winning a bout against a Russian opponent, but when asked if it was a statement on the political situation he refused to comment.

He won by scoring an early penalty point and then holding off Algeria's Amar Benikhlef, who failed to mount an offensive.

In women's, Ueno was the third Olympic champion to defend her title for Japan.

Heavily favored going in, Ueno plowed her way to the finals of the women's 70-kilogram competition, but a much-awaited showdown with world silver medalist Ronda Rousey failed to materialize when the American lost her quarterfinal bout.

Ueno and Rousey started powerfully, winning their first two bouts by ippon. Rousey, whose mother was world champion in 1984, easily pinned Nasiba Surkieva of Turkmenistan, then did it again against Katarzyna Pilocik of Poland.

Ueno began with a pin, then threw China's Juan Wang for what looked like an ippon win. The judges ruled it wasn't quite good enough, but Ueno came back seconds later with another throw that made the grade.

Ueno took just over a minute to dispose of Anett Meszaros of Hungary for her semifinal spot, and won by waza ari over Edith Bosch of the Netherlands for her place in the final. Her final with the unheralded Hernandez lasted just 46 seconds.

"She was clinging to me for dear life and for a moment I wondered if I had won," Ueno said. "I'm relieved it's over."

In the quarterfinals, Rousey, who had trouble getting inside her taller opponent's arms, had to go into overtime with Bosch, and lost when the Dutchwoman unleashed a counter-throw with less than two minutes to go.

Rousey came back strongly in the repechage to take the first medal in women's judo for the U.S. since the event made the official Olympic roster in 1992. U.S. women won silver and bronze when judo was a demonstration sport in 1988.

"I think I fought my absolute best today," Rousey said. "I didn't feel myself getting thrown, but I looked at the replay and it was a pretty good throw."

Bosch won the second bronze.

Hernandez flipped Germany's Annett Boehm to win the other semifinal bout. Both won all their preliminary bouts with ippon.

For the men, Hiroshi Izumi, the Athens silver medalist and a favorite to win in Beijing, was a major disappointment for Japan.

Japan had won a record eight golds at Athens - five of them from the women. With only one from the men going into judo's fifth day, hopes were high in Tokyo that Izumi would come through for another.

But he struggled from the start, going into overtime in his first match and then losing by ippon to Andrei Kazusenok of Belarus.

Tsirekidze had little difficulty safely making it through the preliminary rounds. In the semis, he pinned Russia's Ivan Pershin. France's Yves-Matthieu Dafreville fell with just 19 seconds remaining in his semifinal against Benikhlef of Algeria.

Working from a tough draw, the Netherlands' Mark Huizinga, who won bronze in Athens and silver at the 2000 Sydney Games, had a first-round match against Ilias Iliades of Greece, who won gold in a lighter class in Athens and silver at the 2007 worlds.

Huizinga went ahead early and scored an ippon to end the match with just over a minute left. He then lost to Switzerland's Sergei Aschwanden.

Aschwanden and Egypt's Hesham Mesbah took the bronzes.