Historic day on tatami at Tokyo 2020 as Great Britain, Iran grab gold
Date: August 29, 2021
An exciting final day of judo at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games ended with British and Iranian judoka entering the history books at the Nippon Budokan on Sunday (29 August).
Full results and coverage can be found the IBSA Judo website.
A tense clash between Great Britain’s World Championships bronze medallist Chris Skelley and the USA’s Benjamin Goodrich saw both judoka register significant results for their countries in the final of the men’s up to 100kg.
Skelley and Goodrich both came into the match with nothing to lose. Skelley was already delighted with making it onto the podium having missed out at Rio 2016.
Into the final it was Skelley who made the first successful move just under a minute in. A tomoe-nage secured him the waza-ari.
Both men tried, and tried again, to get points on the scoreboard and as the clock ticked down the tension grew. With 20 seconds remaining, at the re-start, Skelley’s coach Ian Johns shouted to his fighter: “Be brave. Be brave.”
And brave Skelley was, fighting until the end and holding on for the win. It was Great Britain’s first Paralympic gold in more than two decades, since Atlanta 1996.
“[It’s] disbelief. It’s been a long road for the last 11 years. It was hard after Rio (2016).
“It put a big target on my back, so I needed to get here and train even harder to stay where I am.
“Eleven years ago [when I started to lose my sight], I was at the darkest part of my life because there was nothing left for me. The only thing that was left was my judo.”
“To have that come true today, I can’t believe it.”
Goodrich also showed incredible grit having endured an epic nine-minute match in the preliminaries.
“It’s bittersweet. I’ve beaten Skelley before,” Goodrich said. “He’s a tough match, he’s a good guy. We brawl a lot. It was a hard match, but it was the shortest one today. It was a hard fight – four minutes.
“He’s got a great technique, but I went out there and did what I could.”
With just seconds until he was about to secure his seventh consecutive Paralympic medal, Brazil’s Antonio Tenorio had to face a Golden Score against Uzbekistan’s Sharif Khalilov in the bronze medal match.
Tenorio was the first on the scoreboard, registering a waza-ari early on the fight. Khalilov however did not give up and just managed to level the score with three seconds left.
Those watching on could be forgiven for thinking it was a given that Tenorio would secure his latest podium, despite the set-back. But Khalilov once again had other ideas, registering a Uki-otoshi to steal the bronze from the Brazilian’s clutches.
The RPCs’ Anatolii Shevchenko took the other bronze.
Men’s up to 90kg
Iran’s World Championships bronze medallist Vahid Nouri won Iran’s first Paralympic judo gold in the men’s up to 90kg.
Nouri just caught Great Britain’s Elliot Stewart with a neat sweep of his foot for ippon in the final.
The Iranian reflected on a historic win for Iran:
“This is the first gold medal for Iran in Paralympic judo. Before we got silver, bronze, now this is the first gold. I am so thrilled when my national flag goes up. I live judo.”
Both judoka had an impressive journey to the final including Stewart advancing past Ukrainian world champion Oleksandr Nazarenko.
“It went amazing. I had some hard fights, I had a really tough draw,” Stewart said of his day. “First fight was current Paralympic bronze medallist (Shukhrat BOBOEV, UZB), second fight – world champion, current Paralympic silver medallist (Oleksandr NAZARENKO, UKR). Tough, tough draw, but I knew I’d done the work. I’d done the work at home, I’d done everything I can do.
“I got to the final, I got bested in the final. It was a really good opponent, I just made a bit of a mistake, but I’m pleased with my performance.”
Stewart follows in the footsteps of his 1988 Olympic bronze medallist father.
“It’s great. It’s a dream come true for me and for him. He’s always wanted me to do just as well as he has, even better, so I’m sure he’ll be super happy.”
France’s European silver medallist Helios Latchoumanaya showed off his ne-waza against Kazakhstan’s Zhanbota Amanzhol to take bronze. The 21-year-old is a great prospect for the Paris 2024 Paralympics in three years’ time.
Ukraine’s Nazarenko showed his quality to claim the other bronze in under 20 seconds of the start of his match with Brazil’s Arthur Da Silva.
Men’s over 100kg
Following on from Nouri’s gold, teammate Mohammed Kheriollahzadeh then went on to get gold in the men’s over 100kg to double up for Iran.
Georgia’s Revaz Chikoidze was the silver medallist.
Azerbaijan’s 2004 and 2008 Paralympic champion Ilham Zakiyev got his fourth Paralympic medal after opponent Shirin Sharipov of Uzbekistan pulled out of the bronze medal match.
South Korea’s London 2012 and Rio 2016 champion Gwan Geun Choi recovered from missing out on a shot on defending his title by securing the other bronze.
Women’s up to 70kg
Brazil’s Rio 2016 silver medallist Alana Maldonado returned from the disappointment of her home Paralympics five years ago to claim a much coveted Paralympic title.
Taking on Georgia’s Ina Kaldani, who had beaten Mexican Paralympic title-holder Lenia Ruvalcaba on her way to the final, Maldonado’s victory rarely looked in doubt.
Maldonado got a waza-ari on the board but continued to attack. The Brazilian was unlucky to miss out on more points as Kaldani floundered. When the clock ticked over to 0:00 Maldonado let out a huge scream and embraced her coach after being officially awarded the win.
“It was five years of very hard work, a lot of uncertainty about whether we would be here,” Maldonado said. “I went through a lot of personal things, which made me almost give up.
“It’s not easy for us to go after medals. We have a life and we have to give it up in order to do this.
“But today I can say everything was worth it. I made my dream come true and those people who love me are very happy.
“This gold is not just mine, it’s ours. There are a lot of people behind it.
“Thank you so much for everyone’s support. This gold is ours, it’s going to Brazil.”
Japan’s Kazusa Ogawa did not let her relatively small stature get in her way in her bronze medal match against the RPC’s Olga Zabrodskaiia.
Only just level with Zabrodskaiia’s chest, Ogawa used all her strength and technique to achieve the waza-ari and let the clock tick down. It is Japan’s first women’s judo medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and legendary judo venue, the Nippon Budokan.
Mexican Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba had to bounce back from the disappointment of losing her chance to defend her title as instead she went for bronze.
Facing Turkey’s Raziye Ulucam, Ruvalcaba got her consolation.
Women’s up to 70kg
Azerbaijan’s Dursadaf Karimova triumphed in the women’s up to 70kg after executing an impressive Ippon-seoi-nage on Kazakhstan’s Zarina Baibatina.
Costa picked herself up and returned to claim the bronze with an ippon against Mongolia’s Altantsetseg Nyamaa.
Having been part of a group of judoka that came to the Brazilian judo team since Rio 2016, Meg Emmerich secured bronze to add to her 2018 World Championships medal of the same colour.
The Nippon Budokan saw three thrilling days of action at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as judoka lined-up in 13 men’s and women’s individual medal events.