Sun, Aug 22, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Japan celebrates record Judo gold medal haul: 8

AP , TOKYO

Japan basked in pride yesterday as it celebrated a record gold medal haul in the judo competition at the Athens Olympics.

"Eight gold in judo, the most ever," blared the headline in the Nikkan Sports Newspaper, which featured a front page photo of Keiji Suzuki celebrating his title in the men's over-100 kilogram final against Russia's Tamerlan Tmenov.

Maki Tsukada also won gold Friday in the women's over-78 final for the nation that invented the sport.

Judo legend Yasuhiro Yamashita, a two-time gold medalist, says he knows the secret of the Japanese success.

"The reason for the supremacy of the Japanese team is that we have very good technique and not only power," Yamashita said. "We're not going to defend in a match, we try to make the points all the time and try to make an ippon" or takedown.

Japan's impressive run in the judo competition started on the first full day of competition when Ryoko Tani won gold in the women's 48-kg event, a win that prompted a congratulatory call from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Japan finished with eight golds and two silvers in the 14 judo events.

No other nation won more than one gold medal.

Other gold medal winners included Tadahiro Nomura, who won his third consecutive gold medal in the men's 60-kg, Masato Uchishiba, who won in the 66-kg class, and Japanese women Ayumi Tanimoto (63-kg), Noriko Anno (78-kg) and Masae Ueno (70-kg).

Eclipse

The eight golds in judo eclipses Japan's previous best of four at the 2000 Sydney Games as well as the 1984 Los Angeles Games, where only the men's competition was held.

The only blemish for Japan in judo was the shocking loss of defending champion Kosei Inoue in the men's 100-kg class.

Inoue, who was elected captain of the judo team, was heavily favored to take home another gold but was upset by Elco van Der Geest of the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.

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