First chances at Olympic judo medals for US
LONDON – Americans have their first shot at judo medals on Monday.
Marti Malloy will be competing in the women’s 57-kilogram division and coach Jimmy Pedro said she has been in “awesome” form lately.
Still, Malloy has a tough first battle against world No. 2 Telma Monteiro of Portugal.
“I honestly feel Marti is peaking at the right time and is poised to beat Monteiro,” Pedro said. Malloy has lost in her last two matches against Monteiro, but is coming closer to winning, the coach added.
“It sounds tough, but if Marti can get by that match, I believe she’s going to reach the semifinals of the Olympics and vie for a medal,” he said.
For Nick Delpopolo, it may be a more straightforward path. Delpopolo is fighting in the men’s 73-kilogram division and has a bye into the second round, where he will face Chi Yip Cheung of Hong Kong.
Pedro said he expected Delpopolo to beat Cheung. To reach the quarterfinals, Delpopolo will have a harder task, possibly coming up against Belgian Dirk van Tichelt, seeded eighth. If Delpopolo wins that match, he could meet the world No. 1, South Korean Wang Ki-chun, who won a silver at the Beijing Games.
Given the surprising upsets in the judo competition so far, Americans getting onto the judo medals’ podium seems a realistic possibility.
On Sunday, both the men’s and the women’s top seeds crashed out in their first fights, leaving the draw wide open. And Japan had yet to win its first gold in the martial art it invented. Only the men had won any medals: one silver on Saturday and one bronze on Sunday.
In the women’s 52-kg division on Sunday, An Kae Um won North Korea’s first Olympic gold, improving on the silver she got at Beijing. Top-seeded Misato Nakamura conceded An was too strong to overcome when she was beaten by her in their second-round fight.
In the final, An fought a tense match against Cuban Acosta Bermoy that went into overtime. An won in the last minutes with a decisive throw that landed Bermoy on her back, and dedicated the victory to her nation’s ruler.
“By winning the gold medal, I think I gave some happiness to our leader Kim Jung-Un, so I believe this is meaningful,” she said.
The bronze medals were won by Italy’s Rosalba Forciniti and France’s Priscilla Gneto.
Among the men, Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili took gold in the 66-kg division. At 20, he was the youngest competitor in his category. It was his first Olympic medal. Shavdatuashvili said he couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago he would be fighting in the Olympics, since he only recently switched from training as junior to a senior in Georgia’s judo program.
Throughout Sunday, Shavdatuashvili was a risky fighter, frequently leaving himself vulnerable as he attempted to throw his opponents in a match-ending ippon.
But in the final, Shavdatuashvili was frequently on the defensive, almost leaping to avoid the lunging attacks of Hungarian Miklos Ungvari. He often resorted to twisting footwork to get out of Ungvari’s attempts to grip his uniform and ultimately got a yuko win over Ungvari.
The men’s bronze medals were won by Masashi Ebinuma of Japan and Cho Jun-Ho of South Korea.
During a quarterfinal match between the two, the referee and corner judges ruled Cho had won. But after loud boos and jeering from the crowd, a judging panel overturned the decision and made Ebinuma the winner.
Ebinuma later said he thought he had lost the fight. “There was support from the spectators and I think that allowed me to get the medal,” he said, adding he felt a bit bad for Cho.
Cho, meanwhile, simply said he decided to focus on the rest of the competition and was happy both men had won medals.
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