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Nagase Triumphs in -81kg Judo to Continue Japanese Gold Rush

Brittany Jordan

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TOKYO—Japan’s Takanori Nagase won the men’s -81kg judo gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics by beating Saeid Mollaei of Mongolia in the final, extending the gold rush by Japanese judokas.

Rio bronze medallist Nagase’s victory marked a fifth judo gold medal for hosts Japan at the Games, edging them closer to their previous Olympic record of eight titles in 2004 in Athens.

In a grueling final that lasted over five and a half minutes, the 27-year-old Nagase, an Uchi Mata inner thigh throw specialist, delivered an ashi-guruma foot wheel to throw Mollaei down on the tatami mats to earn a waza-ari sudden-death overtime victory.

Shamil Borchashvili of Austria and Matthias Casse of Belgium were awarded bronze.

Gold medallist Takanori Nagase of Japan (second left), silver medallist Saeid Mollaei of Mongolia (left), bronze medallist Shamil Borchashvili of Austria (second right), and bronze medallist Matthias Casse of Belgium (right), pose with their medals at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, on July 27, 2021. (Annegret Hilse/Reuters)

When the judge confirmed his win, Nagase burst into tears.

“That was the moment when my goal of winning Olympic gold was met, so I couldn’t help but shed tears,” Nagase told reporters after the presentation ceremony.

Four out of Nagase’s five matches went into Golden Score overtime.

“I’ve been fully prepared for tough matches. Given tough competitors, I’ve tackled every single match as finals,” he added.

In the women’s -63kg category, Rio silver medallist Clarisse Agbegnenou finally got her hands on the top prize by defeating Tina Trstenjak in the final.

The win allowed the Frenchwoman to avenge her defeat by the Slovenian judoka in the Rio Games final in 2016.

Italy’s Maria Centracchio and Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard of Canada claimed bronze medals.

Earlier on Tuesday, the 28-year-old Agbegnenou, five times a world champion, took just 20 seconds to secure an ippon victory by taniotoshi valley drop against Sandrine Billiet of Cape Verde in the elimination round of 16.

Japan’s Miku Tashiro suffered a crashing ippon knockout defeat by Agata Ozdoba-Blach of Poland in the round of 16. The Polish judoka was subsequently beaten by Centracchio in the quarter-finals.

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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