Russian top seed Musa Mogushkov was an early casualty in the men’s under-66kg judo tournament yesterday, losing in the first round to Azerbaijan’s Tarlan Karimov, while Taiwan’s sole representative in the judo competition, Tu Kai-wen, crashed out to Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar of Mongolia.
Mogushkov was actually ranked No. 2 in the world when he was selected for the Games ahead of the only man above him in the rankings, Alim Gadanov.
His defeat came just a day after Russia had won their first Olympic judo gold medal as an independent nation in the under-60kg division through Arsen Galstyan.
The two fighters were level going into a period of golden score where Karimov countered a Mogushkov attack to land the decisive point.
Second seed Khashbaatar won with an identical counter (uchi-mata sukeshi).
In the women’s under-52kg division, Kosovan Majlinda Kelmendi, fighting under the Albanian flag as her country is not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, progressed with a victory over Finland’s Jaana Sundberg.
There was also early success for North Korea’s An Kum-ae and Germany’s Romy Tarangul, who once appeared naked in Playboy.
On Saturday, Brazilian Sarah Menezes got off to a shaky start, squeaking through her preliminary rounds by the smallest possible margin, but by the end of her final fight of the women’s under-48kg category, Menezes became the first Brazilian woman to win an Olympic judo gold.
Pitted against defending champion Alina Dumitru in a cagey final, Menezes often kept her guard up like a boxer avoiding jabs.
In the last minutes of the match, she managed to throw Dumitru twice for a convincing win.
“I’m exceedingly happy,” Menezes said. “I hoped and prayed for this medal and I got it at 22.”
In the men’s under-60kg division, Galstyan surprised spectators and opponents alike when he took gold.
Galstyan defeated the category’s two favorites to win the medal — top-ranked Uzbekistan fighter Rishod Sobirov in the semi-final and Japanese judoka Hiroaki Hiroaka in the final.
It took less than a minute for Galstyan, 23, to score a match-ending ippon over Hiroaka.
It was the first Olympic medal for the Russian, who came third at the world championships.
The bronze medals were won by Sobirov and Felipe Kitadai of Brazil.
It was the first gold medal for Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
“Russia has waited [for this] for a long time,” Galstyan said. “I feel very happy I was able to win it.”
The women’s bronze medals went to Hungarian Eva Csernoviczki and Charline van Snick of Belgium.
For Csernoviczki, the medal came despite being strangled into unconsciousness in the fourth round.
“I still can’t believe I made it,” she said.
“I am happy that for the first time I could beat the world No. 1,” she said, referring to her win over top-ranked Tomoko Fukumi in the bronze-medal match.
For Fukumi and her team, it was a disappointing day for the nation that invented judo and aspires only to gold.
Hiroaka had looked in top form on Saturday and was frequently the aggressor in his matches — until he got thrown by Galstyan.
“I’m not satisfied with the color of my medal, but I did the best I could,” he said.
Still, mere judo skills did not explain everyone’s success.
Before each match, Brazilian Kitadai touched the tatami before touching his judo uniform. He said he always thinks of the five rings when he dreams of the Olympics.