Matsumoto says team spirit led to goldAgence France-Presse . London
Kaori Matsumoto of Japan said team spirit had helped her to Olympic gold after she won the women’s under-57kg category when Romania’s Corina Caprioriu was disqualified in the final here on Monday.
Caprioriu made an illegal attack from behind, earning an automatic disqualification during a sudden death golden score period in the otherwise tight final.
By winning gold, Matsumoto ended the Japanese women’s judo medal drought at the Games.
American Marti Malloy beat Beijing 2008 champion Giulia Quintavalle of Italy with a brilliant foot sweep (kouchi-gari) to claim bronze.
The other bronze medal went to France’s Automne Pavia under the watchful gaze of French President Francois Hollande.
There was plenty of pressure on world number one Matsumoto’s shoulders before the competition began.
Japan have the reigning world champions in the three lightest women’s weights but her team-mates Tomoko Fukumi and Misato Nakamura had failed to deliver here in the under-48kg and under-52kg categories respectively.
Added to that, Matsumoto had been selected ahead of world champion Aiko Sato, just as her two other fellow Olympians had been picked over team-mates who were either world champions or number one in the world rankings.
It meant the Japanese selectors were under pressure too, having got their choice ‘wrong’ twice already.
But Matsumoto delivered in fine style, despite a helping hand from Caprioriu in the final.
And she revealed that support from her beaten team-mates had helped her achieve her dream.
‘I was able to get gold on behalf of my colleagues Fukumi and Nakamura so I’m very happy,’ said Matsumoto.
‘There was indeed pressure but I did what I wanted to do along the way and I think that helped me to get this medal.
‘Before the final I wasn’t saying much because I was getting ready but Fukumi told me: ‘It’s your first time here so just go for it’, and Nakamura said: ‘You’re going to get our first gold medal’.’
The 24-year-old began her gold bid by throwing Slovenia’s Vesna Dzukic with an outer sweep (osoto-gari) before using an inner sweep (kosoto-gari) to despatch Kifayat Gasimova of Azerbaijan.
Next up Quintavalle, who had been a shock winner in Beijing having never won either a world or European medal before or since.
The 29-year-old put up a strong challenge but Matsumoto eventually struck with another kosoto-gari.
The Japanese star then met Pavia in the semi-finals and needed a golden score period before she pulled off an unorthodox osoto-gari to make the final.
Pavia defeated home favourite Sarah Clark in golden score before battling past Australia’s Carli Renzi and Sabrina Filzmoser of Austria.
But in the other half of the draw, the top fighters soon fell by the wayside.
Second seed Telma Monteiro of Portugal was stunned in golden score by Malloy while third seed Rafaela Silva left the mat disconsolate after making a crucial mistake and being disqualified for an illegal leg-grab on Hungary’s Hedvig Karakas.
Caprioriu made the final with a dramatic rear throw (ura-nage) to beat Malloy with just seven seconds left of the semi-final.
But she admitted her blunder in the final had been a huge mistake.
‘I didn’t realise what I had done until the moment I actually did it,’ she said. ‘I know it was my fault and it shouldn’t have been done at this level of competition.
‘But I’m not too disappointed because I’ve still achieved silver and that’s a big thing for me.’
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