Judo champ claims Japan's first gold medal

Host nation Japan is celebrating its first gold medal of the Olympics, thanks to Naohisa Takato.
Host nation Japan is celebrating its first gold medal of the Olympics, thanks to Naohisa Takato.

Naohisa Takato won Japan's first gold medal at its home Olympics, beating Taiwan's Yang Yung-wei in the men's 60kg judo final.

Kosovo's Distria Krasniqi beat Japan's Funa Tonaki in the women's 48kg final less than an hour before Takato made sure his team wouldn't have a double heartbreak on the opening day of competition in its beloved homegrown martial art.

Takato won his final three bouts in sudden-death golden score, but he took the final a bit anticlimactically after Yang committed too many fouls.

The 28-year-old Takato atoned for his disappointing bronze-medal performance in Rio de Janeiro five years ago with a hair-raising run to the Tokyo final at the venerable Nippon Budokan arena, the site of judo's introduction to the Olympics in 1964.

Takato won two of his final three bouts on extra-time fouls against his opponent, and he went seven minutes into golden score in a superb semifinal before finishing Kazakhstan's Yeldos Smetov.

Takato is a three-time world champion who desperately wanted to set the tone for Japan's home Olympics with a gold medal on the opening day.

Takato and Tonaki were under extraordinary scrutiny in Tokyo, where some Japanese media suggested the entire Olympic team's performance could rise or fall depending on the first day's judo results.

Australian Associated Press