Clarisse Agbegnenou and Axel Clerget started strong for France defeating Chizuru Arai and Shoichiro Mukai, respectively, in the first two matches. But Japan's +78 kg women's gold medalist Akira Sone came back to beat Romane Dicko. However French judo legend Teddy Riner, after having to settle for a bronze medal in yesterday's +100 kg men's competition, returned to defeat under 100 kg gold medalist Aaron Wolf in overtime to keep France ahead. Sarah Leonie Cysique then sealed the gold for France beating Tsukasa Yoshida in the fifth match. Japan's team silver still gave them a record-tying 12 overall medals for the games.
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.
Do you have any pre-match rituals?
Before my matches, I try to stay calm and just tell myself my strategy over and over in my head. Also, I tell myself to be first every exchange.
What is your favorite throw?
My favorite throw is Drop Seoi-Nage. I like it because I tend to fight taller opponents, and it's effective to drop underneath them and use momentum to throw for ippon.
What is your favorite Newaza technique?
My favorite newaza technique is a rolling choke because I find it easiest to transition to! It's the most efficient for me.
To be in the Olympics is a stunning achievement all on its own. What practice or philosophy did you follow that brought you to this point?
I told myself that it was anyone's day, any day, every single competition. Being on the younger side for this sport, the only thing I can't match against the women I fight is their years of experience competing on the Olympic circuit. But that is something that's not in my control, and I used this to fuel a "nothing to lose" attitude. as well, so I would go out there and fight with everything I had.
What advice do you have for future Olympic hopefuls?
My advice is to just keep going. Don't give up because things get hard or you're faced with a lot of obstacles, keep pushing on. Make all of the work you do, to get where you want to be, count for something.
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.
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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.