Images courtesy of NBC.com
“This no judo! This is no judo!”
Men’s Half-Middleweight – 179 lbs – 81 kg —
Looking to become the first American man to ever win a Gold medal in judo, Travis Stevens came up just short on Tuesday, losing in the finals to Khasan Khalmurzaev of Russia. Stevens, ranked fifth in the world, came into Tuesday’s final riding high after stunning victories in his previous fights. But Khalmurzaev proved to be too cagey.
The two tumbled to the ground twice, where both times Stevens showed the instinct to try and close the show, as he had in previous bouts. Unable, the two were stood back up – which would be Stevens swan song. As the American tried to drag Khalmurzaev to the mat, the Russian changed the momentum and ended up getting the advantage on the throw, causing the immediate end of the bout.
America’s Trevor Stevens lays stunned on the mat, after being thrown by Khasan Khalmurzaev in the Gold medal bout.
Khalmurzaev also defeated Stevens, this past January, in the finals of the Havana Grand Prix. He is undefeated in 2016, with a 20-0 record, and hasn’t lost since November 2015, when he was upset by Japan’s Seidai Sato in the finals of the Jeju Grand Prix, in South Korea.
Fighting in this third Olympics, the Silver medal is the first hardware picked up by Stevens, as his previous best was a fifth-place finish in London. He was looking to become the second American to win Gold, after Kayla Harrison won the nation’s first in 2012.
Coming home with the first men’s medal of any kind since 2004, Stevens had a fantastic run throughout the day, including ending two bouts before time expired. To reach the finals, he faced off against Avtandil Tchrikishvili of Georgia, who came into the competition as the number one ranked fighter, at the weight, in the world.
Halfway through the bout, Tchrikishvili picked up a shido (yellow) for stepping outside of the mat. Less than thirty seconds later, Stevens picked up one of his own, due to inactivity, to balance things out. With 72 seconds left, Stevens fell to his back, possibly looking for an armbar, but failed and was issued a second yellow card.
Despite the pressure of time running out against the world’s top fighter in his class, Stevens stayed calm. Tchrikishvili attempted to drag the American down to the ground, but Stevens stuffed it, and reversed the move into a choke that the Georgian was forced to tap out to, with 53 seconds remaining.
American Travis Stevens rolls through on Georgia’s Avtandil Tchrikishvili, en route to choking him.
It was the second straight finish for the American, who also deleted Bulgaria’s Ivaylo Ivanov in their quarterfinal contest.
While on the mat, Stevens secured control of Ivanov’s body with a crotch hold while gripping the nape of the gi, and holding the Bulgarian down for 20 seconds, to earn the automatic stoppage.
With his victory over the Tacoma, Washington native, Khalmurzaev, 22, ended his first Olympics by bringing home Russia’s second men’s Gold of the Games, and fourth since the fall of the Soviet Union.
In order to face off against Stevens for Gold, Khalmurzaev upended Canada’s Antoine Valois-Fortier via penalty during golden time (sudden death extra time), and then dispatched of United Arab Emirates representative Sergiu Toma, via ippon (finish), and also in golden time.
Khalmurzaev attempted a throw to begin overtime, but couldn’t gain control. After the two were reset, the reigning European Champion went right back on the attack, finally tossing his fatigued opponent.
With thirty seconds left in regulation, both received yellow cards for slap-fighting, and not pushing forward to attempt a technique. Earlier, on separate occasions, both had earned yellow cards for being inactive while on defense.
After their respective semifinal losses, the vanquished Toma and Tchrikishvili were off to see if they could turn it around and come away with Bronze medals.
Toma succeeded, becoming first Emerati medalist in judo – and only the second of any kind ever – by defeating Italy’s Matteo Marconcini.
Originally from Moldova, where he had competed in two Games prior, Toma, 29, is a naturalized citizen. In 2013, he, along with four other judoka and a coach, moved in order to help bolster the UAE system. The only other medal the small Arab nation has ever won was claimed by Ahmed Al Maktoum won a gold medal in shooting for the country during the Athens Games in 2004.
He ended the fairytale run of Marconcini, who came in ranked 35th in the world.
The Azzurri member gained his opportunity by defeating continuing the miserable day of Bulgaria’s Ivaylo Ivanov.
During the repechage, Ivanov – who had been pinned by Travis Stevens in the quarterfinals – grabbed two handfuls of the Italian’s gi, and looked to throw him with force. But, Marconcini countered by twisting his body, turning the momentum, and allowing him to land on top to earn the ippon, and end the bout at 3:17 of extra time.
Ivanov was coming into the competition as the fourth ranked fighter in the division.
Meanwhile, the other semifinal victim, Avtandil Tchrikishvili’s day didn’t end as well as Toma’s, as he lost the other Bronze medal matchup against Japan’s Takanori Nagase.
To get to the Bronze, the 22-year old Nagase had knocked off Canada’s Valois-Fisher in a battle of guys who came in with high expectations, during the repechage.
Valois-Fisher, ranked third in the world and a Bronze winner in London, was expected to once again be in the medal hunt, but faltered in back-to-back losses to Khalmurzaev and Nagase – who finished him with a osoto-gari trip-slam.
The wildest moment of the day took place during the morning round of 32, when Lebanon’s Nacif Elias was disqualified for a utilizing an illegal hold against Argentina’s Emmanuel Lucenti.
To gain advantage during a tie-up struggle, with both hands, Elias jerked on the right sleeve of Lucenti’s gi, which made Lucenti wince, and start selling his elbow. After a restart, the two went back at it, with Elias once again trying get a grip on Lucenti’s gi. He once again pulled on Lucenti’s right arm, bending it towards him, which caused the Argentine fighter to drop to the ground, and howl in pain.
The two were then brought back to neutral position as the officials made their determinations. As they did, Elias stood incredulous on the mat. But, when the announcement was made that he would be disqualified for a safety violation, the Brazilian-born judoka went bananas.
After refusing to shake hands with Lucenti, Elias initially refused to leave the mat, as he yelled at the officials. He eventually stormed off the mats, ripping off his gi, and screaming “This is no judo!” into the cameras, accusing his opponent of “Argentine gamesmanship.”
Eventually, Elias, 27, who became a Lebanese citizen in 2013, did apologize to the fans for his actions, but also added that he hoped “they would understand me.”
Lucenti went on to lose to Valois-Fisher in the round of 16.
As an aside, the Argentine’s fingers, on both hands, were taped as if he were a devious co-conspirator aligned with a villainous 1970’s pro wrestling stable, and his finishing move was a poke jab to the throat.
The controversial technique that caused Lebanon’s Nacif Elias to be disqualified against Emmanuel Lucenti of Argentina.
“THIS IS NO JUDO!”
Men’s Half-Middleweight – 179 lbs (81 kg) – Final Standings:
Gold: Khasan Khalmurzaev (RUS)
Silver: Travis Stevens (USA)
Bronze: Sergiu Toma (UAE)
Bronze: Takanori Nagase (JPN)
Women’s Half-Middleweight – 139 lbs – 63 kg —
Israel’s Yarden Gerbi shows the wounds picked up in her quarterfinal battle with Brazil’s Mariana Silva.
In one of the most competitive divisions of judo’s Games, Slovenia’s Tina Trstenjak danced through the minefield, coming out unscathed, winning the Gold medal at 139 pounds.
Trstenjak, ranked number one in the world coming into the Games, defeated France’s Clarisse Agbegnenou by pinning her down for a stoppage victory.
A highly anticipated battle of the division’s top two, the two opened at a blistering pace – which ultimately did Agbegnenou in. As the French fighter went on the attack, after a restart, Trstenjak changed speeds. She turned Agbegnenou around, and dragged her to the mat.
With fistfulls of gi, Trstenjak worked into a north-south position and completely stifled any chance for Agbegnenou to try and escape. The 20 count came 1:45 into the bout.
While Asia and far Eastern European countries are traditionally thought of as the breadbasket of judo successes, of the 16 women’s medals issued through the first four days in Rio, seven of them – including two golds and two silvers – have gone to geographically more western European countries (Slovenia, Kosovo, Italy, France, Portugal, the Netherlands), as well as Israel.
The other nine have been split amongst Japan (three bronze), Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Brazil and Argentina.
All four women’s medal winners today are new Olympic champions, and Trstenjak is Slovakia’s only medalist of the Games, to date. In 2012, fellow judoka Urska Zolnir became the first-ever Slovenian female Olympic Gold medal winner, also winning the 139 pound class.
Antonio Cesaro would likely approve of Tuesday’s winners as they are all very European.
Keeping her top world ranking cemented, Trstenjak had defeated Brazil’s Mariana Silva to advance into the finals.
Trying to follow in the footsteps of yesterday’s hometown Cinderella story, Rafaela Silva (no relation), Mariana was just outmatched by the hyper-skilled Trstenjak.
A minute into the bout, Trstenjak took Silva over her hip, with a low seoi nage, and worked for an armbar. She continued to move forward, with high energy, taking the fight to Silva and forcing the home fighter to try and counter for any success.
Those hopes dried up for good, to the pained sounds of the disappointed crowd, as Trestenjak dragged Silva to the ground, mounting her, and locking on a tate shiho gatame (basically a full mount) so strong that 20 seconds ran off the clock, and the fight was automatically stopped.
In the other semifinal bout, Agbegnenou upended Japan’s Miku Tashiro.
Arguably, some considered Agbegnenou and Tashiro the top fighters at this weight (ranked second and third, officially), and they didn’t disappoint. The two went back and forth in an active affair, with the decision ultimately going Agbegnenou’s way.
A yellow card that Tashiro had been issued earlier, while on defense, ended up as being the only blemish of the bout.
With the loss, Tashiro, 22, joined Mariana Silva in the Bronze medal matches against Israel’s Yarden Gurbi and Anicka van Emden, respectively.
Unfortunately for the Japanese fighter, she ran straight into an Israeli buzzsaw.
Gerbi, 27, began the bout by throwing Tashiro twice, twenty seconds apart, and was able to stave off the Japanese player’s attempts at offense, by doing just enough (including picking up two yellow cards) to maintain control, and hold on for the victory.
Ranked fourth in the world, entering the Games, Gerbi reached the medal stage by employing the same strategy in her repechage victory over the world’s tenth ranked fighter, Yang Junxia of China.
A hip toss with under a minute scored a waza-ari for Gerbi, and sent her into a “prevent defense,” avoiding Junixa, 27, enough to pick up two yellow cards, and letting the clock run out.
In the other Bronze medal encounter, Silva had hoped to gather up one last burst to keep her fairytale day going, but Anicka van Emden shut down those hopes.
Ranked eighth in the world, van Emden, 29, had defeated the sixth ranked woman, Austria’s Kathrin Unterwurzacher, to make it to the medal stage.
About a minute into their bout, van Emden scored a trip takedown on Unterwurzacher, 24, which was the only score of the bout. Unterwurzacher’s aggressiveness increased as clock time melted away, but was unable to crack the Duchesses defense.
During the round of 16, Silva rallied back from being dominated early and knocked off the world’s number five, Martyna Trajdos of Germany.
A beaming Mariana Silva after her upset victory over Germany’s Martyna Trajdos.
Women’s Half-Middleweight – 139 lbs – 63 kg – Final Standings
Gold: Tina Trstenjak (SLO)
Silver: Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA)
Bronze: Yarden Gurbi (ISR)
Bronze: Anicka van Emden (NED)