Olympic Games 2016

Number three seed Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) won the gold medal in the -100kg category on day six of competition at the Rio Olympics. It was the first gold medal in any sport and only the second medal for the Czech Republic at these games. After a first round bye, Krpalek faced Jorge FONSECA (POR). The pair had faced one another on two previous occasions (at the Rio world championships in 2013 and at the World Masters in Guadalajara in May) both of which were won by Krpalek. Fonseca was unable to halt the losing streak and Krpalek took the contest with a win by waza ari.

In round three Krpalek faced 2009 world champion Maxim RAKOV (KAZ). The contest was a close one but Krpalek edged out the Kazakh fighter who collected two shidos. Another close contest followed, this time in the quarterfinal against the current world champion HAGA Ryunosuke (JPN). Krpalek collected one shido whilst the Japanese (who was facing Krpalek for the first time), collected two and was out of the hunt for the gold medal. That chance was still with Krpalek as he took his place in the semifinal against number two seed Cyrile Maret (FRA) The Frenchman came to the tatami with a 4-2 winning record against Krpalek. However, a bruising encounter ended with a win in newza for Krpalek who is renowned for his prowess on the ground. 

In the final Elmar GASIMOV (AZE) stood in the way of Krpalek adding the Olympic title to his long list of honours. Krpalek had lost to the Azeri in the final of the World masters in Rabat in 2015 when they last went head-to-head. Here in Rio however it was Krpalek, who with 25 seconds left on the clock, came up with an ippon to take the contest and the Olympic title.   

When asked to describe his feelings Krpalek said, "I don't know. I feel that I am so happy because I have achieved gold for everyone. But in my heart I win for my big friend Alexandr JURECKA (CZE) who died last year. I win gold for him." With regard to what Krpalek thought was his best match he said, "Maybe winning in the final, by ippon. All the matches were long. I won just by shido or yuko. The last match I won with an ippon. The day has left me with a bit of a headache now but I feel very happy as it's a great moment in my life and it cannot be better.” Krpalek added, “This medal and title are the biggest success for me. But every medal is important as every medal has a lot of hard work behind and a long journey to become a champion.” In response to what had helped in his preparation Krpalek said, “For sure the time I spent at home with my new born son Anton was the best time. It helped me a lot. I prepared at home and was very happy. Perhaps that's the reason of my success today.” 

Silver medallist Elmar Gasimov said, "I feel good about this medal. Any Olympic medal is great, whether it is gold, silver or bronze. But of course, the gold would have been even nicer." When asked about the final Gasimov answered, “I maybe could have won today, if the Ukrainian (Artem BLOSHENKO, UKR) would not have been so tough in the semifinal. He gave it all and I had to put in a lot of efforts and strength. So I felt a little tired in the final.

”Gasimov added, "All my fights were hard and there was not much time to recover in between, especially after the semis. I had a tough fight before the final, and very short time to recover. After the 3rd minute I gave all my power and did not manage to find the condition to win.” Asked about how he would cope with defeat Gasimov responded by saying, “We are good friends, Lukas an I, and I've already forgotten about my failure as Krpalek told me that he dedicates his victory to his deceased friend. So I feel happy and relieved now.”

Bronze medallist Cyrille MARET (FRA) said, “It is a little different for me, because I don't even have a medal in a world championship. This is an accomplishment from a lot of work. I'm happy today, very happy." Each time he fought, Maret was greeted by his supporters with a chorus of Happy Birthday, as it was his birthday today, about which he said, “It is a special day. It is beautiful, this medal. I came here for a medal." With regard to his feelings Maret added, “It's all because of my preparation and huge support I felt from all my friends and federation. Well, gold would have been a better present. But I'm glad I got a medal today!”  

If ever an athlete through their simple presence communicated total concentration and focus, then it was surely Kayla HARRISON today. Always known for her steely look, her unswerving conviction in achieving her goal, Harrison set about her mission of retaining her Olympic title with obvious relish. There was little or no room for a “warm-up” contest in a category that contained five former world champions (Harrison herself in 2010) as well as the current world title-holder, UMEKI Mami (JPN). And it was Umeki who fell first, defeated by JOO Abigel (HUN), followed by 2009 world champion Marhinde VERKERK (NED) who, in an epic battle lasting almost 12 minutes, was defeated by Yalennis CASTILLO (CUB). Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA), herself a world champion in 2011, joined in the expulsion of champions by dispatching 2013 world champion SOL Kyong (PRK). 

Champion bashing was put on hold in the quarterfinals as first Harrison put out Joo, Tcheumeo put out Natalie POWELL (GBR) and Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) put out Luise MALZAHN (GER). Anamari VELENSEK put out Castillo in the only quarterfinal not to contain a world champion! With the semifinals looming large it was clear that the champion bashing would be resumed, at least in the case of the match up between Tcheumeo and Aguiar. First up however were Velensek and Harrison, and it was Harrison who did the bashing as she armlocked her way to a place in the final. The crowd now wanted Aguiar and threatened to raise the roof as Aguiar entered the arena.

Minutes later it was a subdued audience along with Aguiar who accepted defeat as Tcheumeo took her place in the final. And so there was one more bash left as two former world champions faced off in the final of the -78kg category. Harrison stood tall; she refused to allow Tcheumeo to settle and eventually took the Frenchwoman to ground to execute her favourite armlock. The bashing of champions was over; five had fallen; Harrison alone was left standing and it was Harrison who would climb the podium again to savor the glory of an Olympic gold medal. In the bronze medal matches Aguiar defeated Castillo whilst Velensek defeated Malzahn. 

When asked about the comparison between this and her win in London in 2012 Harrison said, "When winning my first Olympic gold I thought nothing would ever get better, but this is better." Harrison’s performance was both commanding and impressive and she this to say about it, "Like I've said before, what people don't realise is that it is not just today, it's the four years that led up to today. I can't tell you how many times I've drilled all of those situations, thousands and thousands and thousands of times. I've fought every single girl here a million times. My coaches made me fight in every tournament when I was tired, when I was injured, when I didn't want to fight. That's the reason that I won today, it’s because of them. They made me mentally tough and they made me ready for any situation." Audrey Tcheumeo had this to say about her performance, “Of course I felt disappointed as I know my job. I was feeling very nervous as this is my first final at such level. But this is sport - today you lose, next time you win. It was hard to deal with my injuries. I have basically only trained intensively for one and a half months, so coming out with a silver medal is a good proof of courage for me."

It’s easy to understand that Harrison was never going to be a favourite with the partisan Carioca Arena crowd. "I think they [the crowd] were afraid that if Mayra fought me in the final that it would be a bad situation for her. So they wanted me to lose early and lose fast. But Mayra didn't make it to the final so I think that in the end they were like 'well, you can have it," said Harrison. 

After winning bronze Anamari Velensek said, "I feel amazing. I had an injury five weeks ago and all of this was happening, and now it's just unbelievable. I didn't expect a medal today. But after the semifinals I knew I could do it!"" Remarking on her preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games whilst injured Velensek said, "It was extremely difficult because I didn't have that many fights for five weeks. I feel so grateful to my coach who believed in me all of these five weeks and prepared me even though I was injured. I was waiting until last week for the doctor's permission to allow me to fight." 

-100 kg

1. KRPALEK, Lukas (CZE)

2. GASIMOV, Elmar (AZE)

3. HAGA, Ryunosuke (JPN)

3. MARET, Cyrille (FRA)

-78 kg

1. HARRISON, Kayla (USA)

2. TCHEUMEO, Audrey (FRA)

3. AGUIAR, Mayra (BRA)

3. VELENSEK, Anamari (SLO)




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