Japan hoping to improve judo fortunes

Japanese judoka Misato Nakamura is hoping to improve on her

bronze medal from the Beijing Games when the competition for her

lightweight women’s division gets under way on Sunday.

She may have extra incentive: Her teammates failed to win gold

on Saturday, a disappointing start for the country that invented

judo.

The double world champion will face some stiff competition from

other top judo players, including Yanet Bermoy of Cuba and Bundmaa

Munkhbaatar, a Mongolian athlete currently ranked world no. 2.

A medal for Nakamura would help right the course for Japan,

which stumbled Saturday. Top-ranked Tomoko Fukumi left empty-handed

after losing to Hungarian Eva Csernoviczki in the bronze medal

match. Among the men, Hiroaki Hiroaka only managed a silver despite

looking to be in winning form all day.

Fukumi said she tried her best but should not have steered away

from her original game plan. ”I could see the techniques of my

opponent, but I did not keep my judo style where I always try to

get ippon,” she said, commenting on her tendency to go for judo’s

match-ending win.

On the men’s side, none of the previous medallists from the

Beijing Games are returning, leaving the Sunday competition wide

open.

Top-ranked Musa Mogushkov will have a chance to add to Russia’s

gold medal collection after teammate Arsen Galstyan on Saturday won

the country’s first judo gold since the break-up of the Soviet

Union.

Mogushkov might face some difficult matches against Masashi

Ebinuma, the current world champion, Brazilian Leandro Cunha, a

double silver world medallist or the consistently strong Korean

fighter, Chor Jun-Ho.

On Saturday, Galstyan surprised spectators and opponents when he

took the gold after defeating the category’s two favorites:

top-ranked Uzbeki fighter Rishod Sobirov in the semifinal, and

top-ranked Hiroaka in the final.

It took less than a minute for Galstyan, 23, to score a

match-ending ippon over Hiroaka. ”Russia has waited (for this) for

a long time,” Galstyan said. ”I feel very happy I was able to win

it.”

The women also made history on Saturday; Brazil’s Sarah Menezes

beat defending Olympic champion Alina Dumitru of Romania to become

her country’s first female judo gold medalist. She said she was

”exceedingly happy” and that she had prayed to win.