Japanese Pair Climbs to New Heights in Judo

From Times Wire Reports

Ryoko Tani is among the most popular sports figures in Japan, nicknamed “Yawara-chan” for a comic book character who just happens to be a nearly invincible judo specialist.

Tani, a four-time Olympic finalist dating to the 1992 Barcelona Games, when she was known as Ryoko Tamura, added a heroic chapter to her career Saturday by becoming the first woman to win a second consecutive judo gold medal with a victory over Frederique Jossinet of France in the women’s 48-kilogram (106-pound) weight class final. Bronze medals went to Julia Matijass of Germany and Feng Gao of China

Japan received a second record-setting judo performance Saturday when Tadahiro Nomura defeated Nestor Khergiani of Georgia in the men’s 60-kilogram (132-pound) division final for an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal. Choi Min-ho of South Korea and Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar of Mongolia received bronze medals.


Tani, now 28 and married to Japanese baseball player Yoshitomo Tani, reaches the twilight of her career with six consecutive world championships -- all in the 48-kilogram class. Tani had to come back from a bizarre injury less than a month ago when she got a toe stuck between judo mats and hurt her left leg and ankle.

“This title is special as it is the first under my new name,” Tani said. “Even without legs, one can win a title by sheer will.”

Nomura became the first Japanese man in any sport to win three individual golds.


World-Record Upset

Turkey’s Nurcan Taylan pulled off a huge surprise in the opening event Saturday, turning a world-record lift into an upset of heavily favored Li Zhuo of China in the women’s 48-kilogram weight class.

The loss was a stunning start for China’s women’s weightlifting powerhouse team, whose assistant coach had predicted a sweep of all four events it could enter.

Defending gold medalist Tara Cunningham of the United States wasn’t a factor, dropping the bar on her left leg on her second lift and finishing 11th of 14. Thailand’s Aree Wiratthaworn won the bronze.


Men’s Team Stumbles

The top American men’s team, seventh-seeded Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard, were not sharp in a 21-16, 21-14 loss to 17th-seeded Australians Julien Prosser and Mark Williams in the last match of the day.

The Americans fell behind, 6-2, and never led. Blanton faulted on six serves, while Nygaard was out of position on numerous block attempts.

“We didn’t play well enough to win, and they did,” Nygaard said. “We put no pressure on them, and they did whatever they wanted.”

The U.S. women’s team of fourth-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs cruised past 21st-seeded Norwegians Susanne Glesnes and Kathrine Maaseide, 21-14, 21-14.

Earlier in the day, 2000 gold medalists Natalie Cook and Kerri-Ann Pottharst got off to a good start with different partners. Pottharst and Summer Lochowicz, seeded No. 18, upset the seventh-seeded Chinese duo of Jia Tian and Wang Fei, 21-18, 21-18. Fifth-seeded Cook and Nicole Sanderson beat 20th-seeded Bulgarian sisters Lina and Petia Yanchulova, 21-16, 21-12.

In other preliminary matches, Canadians Guylaine Dumont and Ann Martin upset the ninth-seeded Swiss pair of Simone Kuhn and Nicole Schnyder-Benoit, 21-16, 21-13.


Smart Can’t Answer

Italy’s Aldo Montano rallied to defeat Zsolt Nemcsik of Hungary, 15-14, in Saturday night’s saber final. Keeth Smart, the top American fencer, lost in the round of 16.

Smart, who last year became the first American fencer to be ranked No. 1 in the world, stumbled earlier against Montano and lost, 15-7.

“I guess I was a little too excited,” Smart said.

Ivan Lee, who like Smart is from New York and learned fencing at the Peter Westbrook Foundation, defeated Gianpiero Pastore of Italy, 15-9, in his opener, but then had to face four-time gold medalist Stanislav Pozdniakov. The Russian dominated the bout, taking 12 of the first 16 points. He won, 15-9.

Vladislav Tretiak of Ukraine defeated Dmitri Lapkes of Belarus to win the bronze.


Abdullah Advances

Aquil Abdullah has already made history as the first black to row for the U.S. Olympic team. Now he’s only two races away from becoming the first to win a medal.

The former college football recruit and his double scull partner, Henry Nuzum, finished a solid third in a five-team field Saturday to become one of two U.S. boats to advance to the semifinals in their respective events.

The other American boat to move to the semifinal round was the men’s pair of Luke Walton and Artour Samsonov.


Dirrell Wins Opener

Middleweight Andre Dirrell started strong for the U.S. on Saturday, beating China’s Ha Dabateer, 25-18.

A left-hander from Flint, Mich., Dirrell counterpunched his way to an easy victory in the second fight of the day.

The light-heavyweight division also got started, but U.S. hopeful Andre Ward received a first-round bye. Ward and Dirrell are considered the Americans’ top gold-medal prospects.