It was a classic exercise in civility as the two judoka who had been attempting to throw and strangle one another abandoned the sport’s brutal moves as soon as it was over — and hugged.
Kim Jae-bum of South Korea won the gold in the under-81kg category on Tuesday, besting Ole Bischof of Germany in a final that he dominated from the start, throwing Bischof twice and often attacking, even when both were locked in grappling techniques on the ground.
It was a reversal of the final in Beijing, where Bischof won. This time, he said, Kim deserved the victory.
“He is much stronger and quicker now,” Bischof said. “I think we have the correct champion.”
It was South Korea’s first judo gold medal of the London Games and it adds to the country’s judo tally — teammate Cho Jun-ho won a bronze in the lightweight men’s division earlier this week.
Kim, 27, also the world champion, paid tribute to Bischof. He said he did not think his 32-year-old rival had aged at all since Beijing — at least athletically.
“He is such a great player and I’m very glad to have competed against him,” Kim said.
The bronze medals were won by Ivan Nifontov of Russia and Antoine Valois-Fortier of Canada.
US judoka Travis Stevens fought several grueling matches to make it to the semi-finals, where he lost to Bischof. By that fight’s end, Stevens had several bandages wrapped around his head. He lost in the repechage bronze medal match to Valois-Fortier.
In the women’s division, Urska Zolnir of Slovenia won the women’s under-63kg class, defeating Xu Lili of China in a combative final where both fighters were almost constantly on the offensive.
Zolnir managed to throw Xu once in the match’s first minute, which was ultimately enough to win.
She also won Slovenia’s first Olympic judo medal at the Athens Games when she entered as a wild card and won the bronze.
Zolnir focused mainly on grappling techniques on Tuesday, pinning down her opponents throughout the day.
At 31, she was one of the oldest competitors in the division.
“You will not meet me in Rio,” she predicted.
She said winning the gold came even as a surprise to herself.
“I did not expect the gold medal when I woke up this morning,” she said, adding her confidence grew as she won more matches.
The bronze medals were won by Yoshie Ueno of Japan and Gevrise Emane of France.
After winning a judo gold on Monday, it was another disappointing day for Japan, the country that invented the sport. Ueno’s bronze was the only Japanese medal of the day, despite the nation’s judoka being viewed as favorites going into the competition. So far, Japan have won one gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Ueno acknowledged the number of medals was in the lower range of what Japan expected, but said the coaches had not said anything in particular about the performances.
“We still have tomorrow,” she said.