Mongolia, China take judo golds; Japan melts down
BEIJING (AP) Mongolia won its first-ever Olympic gold with a victory in judo and China collected its second on the mats after two Japanese contenders crashed with first-round losses Thursday.
Mongolia got its gold medal from Tuvshinbayar Naidan, who defeated Kazakhstan's Askhat Zhitkeyev in the men's 100-kilogram class.
China's Yang Xiuli flipped her first four opponents then won in an overtime decision over Cuba's Yalennis Castillo to take the gold medal in the women's 78-kilogram division.
"The first thing I thought of was my parents and my coach," said Naidan, who bolsters his judo with elements of traditional Mongolian wrestling. Mongolia has won medals in wrestling, boxing, shooting and judo in previous games, but never a gold.
Naidan marked a big upset over Athens Olympic champion Keiji Suzuki of Japan in his opening bout. He scored a waza ari with just under two minutes remaining in the final, then added on two yuko to seal the victory.
Azerbaijan's Movlud Miraliyev and Henk Grol of the Netherlands took men's bronze.
The competition was left wide open after Japan crashed out in a disastrous preliminary round, with Suzuki and 2007 world silver medalist Sae Nakazawa both losing their first fights.
Suzuki, who moved down to 100 kilograms for Beijing, was never a factor.
Naidan came out hard and grabbed Suzuki's legs, lifted him off the mat and drove him down to his back.
Suzuki was then upended by a throw in the loser's bracket and eliminated from a shot at bronze.
"I didn't expect it would be easy to win, but I didn't expect this, either," Suzuki said. "I'm very disappointed. It's a shame."
The meltdown was another huge disappointment for Japan's men, who had pinned their hopes on Suzuki, but have won only one gold medal after six days. In Athens, the Japanese team won a record eight golds, five of them by women.
The reigning world champion, Luciano Correa of Brazil, also fell to his back and failed to get a medal.
Grol, who was making his Olympic debut but has won 22 of 24 bouts internationally this year, went ahead early with a waza ari in their opener. He unleashed the winning throw with just under two minutes left in the bout.
Grol, who is ranked No. 1 in standings this year, earned his semifinal ticket by throwing Poland's Przemysiaw Matyjaszek about 30 seconds into their match. In the semifinal, he fell behind Zhitkeyev, but then went ahead with a waza ari. Both then tried throws, and the judges ruled Zhitkeyev came out on top.
The second semifinal match went into overtime, with Azerbaijan's Movlud Miraliyev and Naidan unable to score in the first five minutes. Naidan ended it with a flip after nearly two minutes.
Women's gold medalist Yang said being in the Chinese military prepared her for her final - a 10-minute marathon.
"On the battlefield we can't be afraid of anything," she said. "So what is there to be afraid of in competition?"
She didn't need to fear Japan.
After a first-round bye in the women's 78-kilogram division, Nakazawa, the 2006 Asian Games champion and 2007 silver medalist at the world championships, trailed going into the final minute of her second-round match. With seconds remaining, Italy's Lucia Morico added a yuko to finish it off.
Nakazawa was making her Olympic debut, and Japan was hoping she would bring a third gold, after Masae Ueno and Ayumi Tanimoto defended their titles.
"The weight of representing your country at the world championships and at the Olympics is different. It's much heavier here," she said. "I couldn't turn the support of the fans into a strength for me."
In another upset, Russia's Vera Moskalyuk, the 2006 European champion, lost her first fight to Spain's Esther San Miguel. Miguel, a three-time Olympian, went ahead with two points and Moskalyuk couldn't fight her way out of the hole.
In the semifinal she fought Yang, who scored a yuko halfway through, then two more and an ippon right at the bell for the win.
San Miguel lost the bronze-medal bout to France's Stephanie Possamai, who scored a waza ari.
The other bronze went to South Korea's Jeong Gyeong-mi.