Judo-Judoka Takato wins Japan's first Tokyo 2020 gold
Published : Saturday, 24 July, 2021 at 11:02 PM Count : 307
Naohisa Takato delivered the first gold medal of the Tokyo Games for a host nation desperate for Olympic glory by winning the men's 60 kg judo, a sport fittingly born in Japan 140 years ago.
The win against Taiwan's Yang Yung-wei left Takato openly weeping on the mat and stood in contrast to the lack of fans in an empty arena at the Nippon Budokan, a mecca of Japanese martial arts and concert venues, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is heavy. It makes me feel like dreaming," Takato, who was later all smiles, told reporters when asked about the gold medal that was put around his neck.
The triple world champion judoka, who had disappointed the nation with a bronze medal at the 2016 Games, had a nail-biting ride to the top of the podium with three victories in the finals coming in the sudden death Golden Score period.
He had a close shave in his quarter-final in the 60kg class, winning during Golden Score overtime on a foul by his Georgian opponent Lukhumi Chkhvimiani.
In the elimination round of 16, Takato delivered an ippon against Belgian Jorre Verstaeten.
"It was frustrating in Rio," Takato said, recalling the previous Games where he ended up with bronze. "It was a long road to get here."
In between matches at the eight-sided Nippon Budokan, which was built for the Olympics Japan hosted in 1964, sanitation workers poured disinfectant spray over yellow tatami mats to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection.
Blaring pop, rock and dance music was used to generate an atmosphere before the bouts.