Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia
6: WOMEN -78kg, MEN -100kg
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was never any doubt from the moment he stepped off the mat, 18 seconds
after his first contest had begun, that Kosei Inoue of Japan would
dominate the limelight on the penultimate day of the 2000 Sydney Judo
Many people had been waiting all week just to watch this legend-in-the-making
and he didn't disappoint with a string of stunning Ippon victories
that carried this prodigious talent to the Olympic crown. And in a
fitting tribute to his late mother, Inoue held a picture of her above
his head as he stood on the podium with his shinny gold medal around
his neck. "I wanted to win this medal for my mother," he said. "So
I want to dedicate this victory to her. She always encouraged me to
compete in Judo and I want to remember her with this medal."
A year ago he stunned the World with a convincing victory at the World
championships in Birmingham where he beat many top fighters such as
Stephane Traineau of France. Here in Sydney, though, he was always
going to be the closest thing to a dead cert.
His first two fights combined lasted less than thirty seconds against
Yosvani Kessel of Cuba and Daniel Gowing of New Zealand. Kessel succumbed
to Ouchi-gari and Gowing to Seoi-nage, and Inoue hadn't even unleashed
his main weapon yet. His quarter-final and semi-final opponents put
up greater resistance but still ultimately fell to his natural gift.
Ariel Zeevi of Israel caused a few problems for the World champion
and lasted nearly two and a half minutes. When the killer blow came,
though, it was as exciting as it was expected. The Israeli was bowled
over for Ippon with Uchi-mata.
Luigi Guido of Italy also put up spirited resistance next but he was
constantly punished for a series of desperate attacks designed more
at delaying the inevitable than causing an upset. Having accumulated
penalties to Keikoku, he was thrown for Waza-ari with Uchi-mata and
left to fight for bronze. The final against the Barcelona bronze medallist,
Nicholas Gill of Canada, brought back recent memories of their bout
at the Tournoi de Paris in February. That time Gill lasted 31 seconds
so he was out to foil Inoue's Uchi-mata this time. He fared much better
this time and almost made it to the second half of the fight, but
still the outcome was identical and this time he was probably lifted
even higher off the mat. In fact Inoue lifted him so far off his feet
that he almost over-rotated the throw by the time Gill crashed down
into the mat. "I had two plans to stop him," said Gill. "The first
was to block his Uchi-mata. I think I was doing quite well until I
was thrown! I had a plan B, but I won't tell you that in case I have
to fight him again."
Amid the euphoria surrounding the witnessing of a legend in the making,
it was easy to forget that another gold medal was claimed the same
day. In the women's -78kgs category, Lin Tang of China surprised a
posse of more illustrious opponents to claim the title by a split
judges' decision in the final against Celine Lebrun of France. A year
ago Tang sat on the sidelines as her compatriot, Yufeng Yin competed
in the World championships, winning a silver medal. Yin was expected
to be among the favourites here in Sydney but surprisingly lost to
Tang in the Chinese selection tournament.
quietly made her way through the draw while Lebrun battled through
two judges' decisions to reach the gold medal fight. The French-woman
struck first with a low score early in the fight. But she failed to
capitalise on her good start and allowed Tang to dominate with her
strong, high left-hand grip. Lebrun was twice penalised for passivity
by the referee, resulting in a levelling of the scores at the end.
The crowd waited nervously as the judges collected their flags, and
then the moment came as the two whites and a blue were thrust into
the air. Tang, fighting in white, was the winner and Lebrun was dumbfounded,
convinced the decision should have swung her way. "I thought I would
win the decision so I was feeling pretty happy at the end of the fight,"
said Lebrun. "Then I saw one white and one blue flag and I started
to worry. When I saw the third flag, it felt like a dream falling
apart. In retrospect, though, there are worse things that can happen
in life. If I look at my career then I think it must develop in stages.
Maybe I have to win a silver medal before a gold."
It was a great day for the thirty-somethings as two veterans of the
tour rose once more to stand on an Olympic podium for the second time
in their careers. Emanuela Pierantozzi of Italy won a silver medal
at the Barcelona Games, three years after she completed a European
and World championship double gold haul. She hadn't felt the thrill
of climbing an international podium since 1997, though, and she was
clearly delighted to win bronze, even knocking out World champion
Noriko Anno of Japan along the way. Stephane Traineau of France was
the oldest competitor on the day at 34 years of age. He too is a former
World champion, in 1991, and four years ago he won a bronze in Atlanta.
This time he lost in the semi-final to Gill but bounced back to armlock
Zeevi with Juji-gatame to emulate his performance in 1996. Traineau
was delighted, despite the slight confusion as to whether the armlock
took place inside the mat or not. He said: "I am filled with joy.
It has been a long, hard day and its very good to win a medal at the
end of it."
Traineau was joined on the rostrum by Iouri Stepkine of Russia who
ended the medal hopes of Guido by throing him for Ippon with Osoto-gari.
"I am extremely happy with this bronze medal," said the European champion.
"I am overwhelmed with feelings. This is the first medal I have won
of this kind and any medal won at the World championships or Olympics
is more prestigious than one won at the Europeans." Meanwhile the
last bronze medal of the day was won by Simona Richter of Romania
who battled hard all day and only missed out on the final by a judges'
decision against Lebrun.
a competition day below to read reviews »
NOMURA Tadahiro (JPN)
OZKAN Huseyin (TUR)
MADDALONI Giuseppe (ITA)
TAKIMOTO Makoto (JPN)
HUIZINGA Mark (NED)
INOUE Kosei (JPN)
DOUILLET David (FRA)
TAMURA Ryoko (JPN)
VERDECIA Legna (CUB)
FERNANDEZ Isabel (ESP)
VANDENHENDE Severine (FRA)
VERANES Sibelis (CUB)
TANG Lin (CHN)
YUAN Hua (CHN)
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