The Rio 2016 Olympic Games judo competition reached the halfway stage on Tuesday afternoon as the men’s -81kg and the women’s -63kg categories kick started for today. Two new Olympic champions were guaranteed as London -81kg champion Kim Jae-Bum (KOR) retired earlier this year, while London -63kg champion Urksa Zolnir (SLO) retired in 2012 and is now part of Slovenia’s coaching team. Today was just like the previous days of the judo competition so far filled with excitement and surprises as we’ve seen both familiar and new faces crowned as champions.
Women’s -63kg Highlights
Entering the competition, Slovenia’s Tina Trstenjak was the number one ranked Judoka of her weight division so of course, there were tons of expectations on her to win, but she lived up to those expectations as she dominated the competition. In her first contest, she managed to defeat Edwige Gwend of Italy, despite the fact that it was a very close contest which ultimately resulted in in a 0:2 on shidos for Edwige. Tina had a more impressive performance in her next match as she dominated Yang Junxia of China by pinning her for a ippon to move on to the last four. It was there that she then faced off against the surprising, young contender Marian Silva. The Pan American Championships winner, Mariana started off with a great display against Szandra Szogedi where she got a ippon in exactly one minute before she went up against Germany’s Martyna Trajdos, where she defeated her with 1:3 on shido penalties. Marian, then managed to get an upset in the tournament when she beat the highly ranked Yarden Gerbi in golden score by a yuko, feeding on the energy of her hometown crowd. Of course, her hype eventually died down as Tina also managed to defeat her with a pin to get the ippon. In the finals, Tina went up against the number two ranked Judoka, Clarrise Agbegnenou of France, who was hoping to end France’s medal drought in recent years, and while she did just that, she couldn’t win the gold. Tina yet again managed to defeat her opponent with a holding pin to get the ippon and ultimately win the gold medal – which was truly impressive.
Men’s -81kg Highlights
This was truly make or break for many fighters, but this was especially the case for Travis Stevens. Prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics, Travis had competed in the 2008 Olympics where he managed to reach the quarterfinals before being defeated by Ole Bischoff. In 2012, Travis reached the semifinals in London where he yet again faced off against Ole Bischoff in a very close contest where some feel that Travis was given unjust calls. This year would be different for Travis though, as he went through a series of scares and injuries that almost cost him a leg, literally. Travis however prevailed, and fought on in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Throughout this tournament, it was Travis’ strong newaza (groundwork) which led him all the way into the finals against Khasan Khalmurzaev of Russia. Travis faced off against Sweden’s Robin Pacek in the Round of 32 and managed to get the win after a very difficult contest, in which neither of the men were able to mount any serious offense.
After surviving his tough match against the Swede, Travis managed to win his next two matches by ippon due to pins. He eventually met the number one ranked Judoka in his division, Avtandil Tchrikishvili of Georgia. Travis was losing the match due to penalties and with 53 seconds left, managed to get his opponent to the ground and apply a chokehold that forced his opponent to tap. The finals between Travis Stevens and Khalmurzaev was as much of a thriller and action packed match as fans were expecting it to be. Stevens managed to get the fight to go the ground, where Travis showed himself to be a shark in the water when it comes to newaza, and he certainly tried to sink his teeth into his opponent, but Khalmurzaev managed to survive and get the fight standing back up, where he managed to successfully counter Travis’s attempt for a takedown by throwing him with an Uchi-Mata to get the ippon and win the gold medal. Khalmurzaev’s win gives Russia its second gold medal in men’s judo in four days, proving to fans around the world that the Russians still haven’t lost a step when it comes to winning medals in major Judo tournaments. Meanwhile, the bronze medals in today’s men’s division went to Sergiu Toma of the United Arab Emirates, who was only the second ever athlete from the UAE to win a medal in any sport his country, and Japan’s Takanori Nagase, who brought home Japan’s seventh Olympic medal in total.