It took Ukraine’s world champion Inna Cherniak just 40 seconds to seal gold in her first Paralympic final on day two of the judo competitions.
Carioca Arena 3 was a cauldron of noise as Cherniak defeated Brazilian London 2012 silver medallist Lucia Araujo to take the up to 57kg title.
Despite strong support from the home crowd, Araujo could not find a way out after being pinned to the mat quickly by Cherniak.
Afterwards, Cherniak said the support from the loud Brazilian crowd was a motivating factor for her as well.
“I was a little bit nervous because the crowd were, of course, supporting the Brazilian judoka,” she said. “But their emotions helped me too.”
“This day was the perfect day.” she added. “This medal represents four years of work. I’m very happy that this day ended like this.”
For Araujo, the reaction of the home supporters helped her quickly overcome any disappointment at missing out on a gold medal once again.
“Even though it was the silver medal, I still got supported by the people,” Araujo said.
“I didn’t have time to think about losing the gold medal. I was sad but then everybody started cheering and I felt very good about it.”
While Ukrainian judokas were favourites for all four events on day two of competition, Cherniak was the only member of the Ukraine squad that topped the podium.
There was disappointment for the Ukranian top seed Iryna Husieva in the women’s up to 63kg contest. The world number one was unable to stop Cuba’s Dalidaivis Rodriguez defending the title she won at London 2012. Rodriguez took victory by twice scoring waza-ari, securing Cuba’s first gold of Rio 2016 in the process.
In the up to 81kg competition Beijing 2008 champion Eduardo Avila Sanchez returned to the top of the Paralympic podium. Sanchez stepped up from the up to 73kg event to the up to 81kg category since Beijing, and now adds a gold to the bronze he won in the category at London 2012. Just one yuko was enough for Sanchez to edge the final against South Korea’s Jung Min Lee.
In the men’s up to 73kg event Ukraine’s World No.1 David Solovey was unable to replicate the gold medal he won at London 2012. In a repeat of the 2015 European Championship final he was beaten by Azerbaijan’s Ramil Gasimov. Gasimov secured the win with a direct ippon from an expertly-executed throw.
Speaking afterwards, Solovey admitted he was unhappy to again be defeated by his rival and is already determined to make amends.
“This is my sixth meeting with Ramil Gasimov and I made the same mistakes I have for the last three years,” he said.
“During the final I seemed to be better than him but because of his age and experience he won in the end.
“I now begin preparing for the Paralympics in Tokyo. I will go there to win the gold medal.”
Saturday (September 10) sees the final day of judo in Carioca Arena 3, where the male judokas in the up to 90kg, up to 100kg and over 100kg competitions will compete, as will female fighters in up to 70kg and over 70kg events.