LONDON, England (AFP) — Olympic judo gold medallists Mansur Isaev and Kaori Matsumoto put their success at the London Games yesterday down to team spirit in their respective camps.
Russian Isaev won the men’s Under-73kg Division and then praised the impact of head coach Ezio Gamba, an Italian Olympic champion in 1980.
And Matsumoto said her women’s Under-57kg success was aided by her Japanese team - mates who had failed in their medal bids the previous two days.
Isaev beat world champion Riki Nakaya in the final with a counter to the Japanese fighter’s pick-up attempt.
That was the second judo gold medal won by Russia already at these Games following Arsen Galstyan’s Under-60kg victory on Saturday.
“The whole system changed with the arrival of our new coach, former Olympic champion Gamba,” he said.
“Our physical training and preparation changed. Now we take part in all the competitions all over the world to get the necessary experience for everyone to become a good team.
“So I want to say a huge thanks to him and many thanks to all the coaches.
“We worked a lot together, we travelled together, we spent most of our time together as a team.
“Our head coach (Gamba) didn’t say ‘you’re the best,’ but he made us understand that we can work to be the best.
“He said you’ll work and train 300 days a year and that’s what we did. He’s a great man and my thanks go to him and his team.”
Isaev also had to beat world number one Wang Ki-Chun in the semi-finals as he took the hard route to finishing top of the pile.
Wang, a twice world champion and silver medallist four years ago, nearly pulled off a miracle.
He snapped ligaments and damaged muscles in his arm in his second fight as he resisted an armlock against Rinat Ibragimov of Kazakhstan.
He won three fights despite the injury; but came up short at the end, losing to Ugo Legrand of France for bronze.
Mongolia’s Nyam-Ochir Sainjargal took the other bronze medal by beating third-seed Dex Elmont of the Netherlands.
Matsumoto revealed her success was helped by Tomoko Fukumi and Misato Nakamura.
All three were gold medal favourites as Japan dominates in their weight divisions to such an extent that they have the best two fighters in each category.
World number one Fukumi lost for bronze in the Under-48kg Division, while world champion Nakamura lost early in the Under-52kg category.
And yet both put their disappointment to one side to cheer on Matsumoto.
“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’.”
Matsumoto won the final when Romania’s Corina Caprioriu was disqualified for an illegal foot sweep from behind in a sudden death period of golden score.
American Marti Malloy beat Beijing champion Giulia Quintavalle of Italy and was joined on the podium by France’s Automne Pavia.