Olympics: Japan looking for more judo golds
News On Japan via ESPN -- Jun 21
The birthplace of judo is struggling to stay on top of the sport.
Judo is a source of national pride in Japan, where the martial art originated. But the country's judo ego has been bruised in recent years, and it's looking for a comeback at the London Olympics.
Despite rule changes to the throwing and grappling sport that favor the Japanese, bigger opponents using unorthodox techniques have gotten a foothold into the sport, often at Japan's expense. The country won eight of 14 judo gold medals at the Athens Games, then dropped to four in Beijing.
This summer, Japan is betting a new generation of judo players can restore their supremacy: of the 14 judoka on the team, 12 will be making their Olympic debut.
"For the Japanese, nothing less than gold will do," said Nicolas Messner, who is a spokesman for the International Judo Federation, the martial art's governing body. "Japan will definitely be the favorite in the Olympics, though in some categories, there will be a lot of surprises."
Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar earned Mongolia's first Olympic medal at the Beijing Games, and a couple other countries not known for their sporting prowess -- Uzbekistan, Georgia and Ukraine -- boast strong medal contenders for the London Olympics.
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