olympic judo

Host country Japan set a record for most gold medals in judo this Olympics with nine but couldn't add a tenth as the Tokyo Olympics closed out their judo competition Saturday with an upset in the first ever mixed team competition. France stormed the mats to knock off the favored Japanese 4-1 in the finals.
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As the medal results roll in from Tokyo, and the numbers are tallied, it is important to remember that just to participate in the Olympic Games is a goal few athletes ever achieve. As a fan of Judo, high-level human achievement, and elite athletes, I thought it would be helpful to gain some wisdom from a real live Olympian.

Enter Nefeli Papadakis, who at 22, is the youngest member of the USA Judo team. Papadakis is from Gurnee Illinois and started studying Judo at the age of 4. She is coached by her father, Steve Papadakis, and the two have been on the long road to the Olympics together.

Imagine standing at the edge of the stands, seeing her stroll confidently toward the mat, and getting just enough time to ask five questions.

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The Czech Republic's Lukas Krpalek put himself in the history books Friday when he became only the third judoka to ever win Olympic gold medals in two different weight categories claiming the men's +100 kg division in Tokyo. Krpalek, who won the under 100 kg class at the 2016 Rio Olympics, hit a throw with time running out in the finals against Georgia's Guram Tushishvili and went into a hold down to pin Tushishvili for the full point to earn his second Olympic championship. Meanwhile, two-time defending +100 kg champion Teddy Riner of France, considered by some the greatest judoka in history, was upset in the quarter finals and had to settle for the bronze.

On the women's side, Akira Sone helped Japan break its own record for most judo gold medals in a single Olympics when she claimed her country's ninth gold of the tournament capturing the women's +78 kg division against Cuba's Idalys Ortiz. The win came in somewhat anticlimactic fashion as no throws were landed and Ortiz lost on penalties in overtime.


Host country Japan continued to run roughshod over judo at the Olympics Thursday winning both golds on day 6 of competition in Tokyo. Shori Hamada's match in the women's 78 kg division was over almost before it began as her French opponent, Madeleine Malonga, missed on an inside trip attempt just 10 seconds into the contest allowing the ground specialist, Hamada, to take it to the mat. Hamada worked her way free of Malonga's legs and into a hold down position for an easy pin to take the gold medal.

In the men's 100 kg category, Japan's Aaron Wolf waited until overtime against South Korea's Cho Gu-ham before going for his own ouchi gari, inside trip. Unlike Malonga though, Wolf, whose father is American and mother Japanese, landed his perfectly putting Cho flat on his back for an ippon, full point, to take the finals. Japan has now tied their own record for most gold medals (8) in a single Olympic judo competition with three events still to go.