LONDON (AFP) –
No Japanese man will win a gold medal in judo for the first time ever at an Olympic Games after Daiki Kamikawa lost in the heavyweight division in London on Friday.
Kamikawa’s second round defeat by Ihar Makaru of Belarus also condemned Japan, the home of judo, to their worst Olympic performance in the sport since 1988 in Seoul — the last time they failed to top the judo medals’ table.
Men’s coach Shinichi Shinohara, a silver medallist in Sydney 12 years ago, said the team are not mentally strong enough.
“It is my responsibility. Technically we were good but mentally and in terms of power we were weak,” he said.
“I don’t think the rest of the world has got better but mentally athletes from the other countries are stronger.”
Only eight years ago, in Athens, Japan won eight out of the 14 judo gold medals on offer.
But in London they’ve won just one so far through women’s under-57kg world champion Kaori Matsumoto.
Russia have already won three golds so even if Maki Sugimoto, the women’s heavyweight, wins her division Japan can at best finish second overall at this Games.
In Seoul, Japan finished third in the table behind hosts South Korea and Poland, with just one gold medal through heavyweight Hitoshi Saito and three bronzes.
But that was before women’s judo had been included in the programme.
Since the World Championships first became a combined men’s and women’s event in 1987, Japan have never failed to top the medals table, although in Paris in 1997 they beat hosts France by just one bronze.
Prior to then, Japan had only been knocked off top spot at a world championships in 1961 when Dutchman Anton Geesink won the one and only open weight category in Paris, and at the four stand-alone women’s world championships held every two years between 1980 to 1986.