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Japanese men's judo has disastrous prelim round

Aug. 14, 2008, 3:39 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Two of Japan's top men's judo contenders crashed out of the gold-medal race Thursday in a disastrous preliminary round that saw Athens Olympic champion Keiji Suzuki and 2007 world silver medalist Sae Nakazawa both lose their first fights.

Suzuki, moving down to 100 kilograms for Beijing, was thrown to an ippon loss against Mongolia's Tuvshinbayar Naidan, who grabbed his legs, lifted him off the mat and drove him down to his back.

The loss was another huge disappointment for Japan's men, who had pinned their hopes on Suzuki, but have after six days won only one gold medal. In Athens, the Japanese team won a record eight golds, but five of them were from women.

The reigning world champion also fell to his back - twice.

Henk Grol of the Netherlands, who is making his games' debut but has won 22 of 24 bouts internationally this year, went ahead early with a waza ari throw against Luciano Correa, of Brazil, the 2007 world champion, in their opener. He unleashed the winning throw with just under two minutes left in the bout.

Grol earned his semifinal ticket by throwing Poland's Przemysiaw Matyjaszek about 30 seconds into their match. He will face off with Kazakhstan's Askhat Zhitkeyev.

The second semifinal match will be between Azerbaijan's Movlud Miraliyev and Naidan, who scored a late yuko to defeat South Korea's Jang Sung-ho.

The women's preliminaries were also laden with upsets.

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. Japan was hoping she would bring a third gold, after Masae Ueno and Ayumi Tanimoto defended their titles.

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 come back.

To the delight of the screaming home-country fans, China's Yang Xiuli flipped all of her opponents en route to her semifinal berth, where she will meet San Miguel.

Heide Wollert of Germany, the 2008 European champion, fell to a throw by South Korea's Jeong Gyeong-mi with just over two minutes left in her quarterfinal.

Jeong fights Cuba's Yalennis Castillo in the semis.