Japanese judoka siblings both claim gold

Australia's Nathan Katz (blue) won his Olympic judo opening bout but bowed out in the round of 16.
Australia's Nathan Katz (blue) won his Olympic judo opening bout but bowed out in the round of 16.

Siblings Uta and Hifumi Abe have capped a momentous gold-laden day for Japan, winning their respective Olympic judo competitions at the famed Nippon Budokan.

If Sunday fails to turn the tide of public opinion in Tokyo, where disgruntled locals have protested in response to the Games being held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, then it is hard to envisage that anything can.

The Abe family celebrated two historic triumphs at a venue regarded as the spiritual home of modern martial arts, having been constructed for judo's Olympic debut in 1964 while hosting a gamut of stars ranging from Muhammad Ali to John Lennon.

It came after skateboarder Yuto Horigome and swimmer Yui Ohashi each delivered the host nation a gold medal on Sunday morning.

But it is judo, based on the ancient Japanese martial art of jiujutsu and meaning 'gentle way' in English, that holds a unique place in the host nation's culture.

Olympic debutants Uta and Hifumi Abe lived up to the occasion, winning the women's 52kg and men's 66kg divisions respectively.

The 21-year-old Uta overcame Frenchwoman Amandine Buchard in an epic final, becoming the youngest judoka to win the event at an Olympics.

Their gold-medal bout extended deep into golden score until Abe's decisive ippon in the ninth minute.

Older brother Hifumi's triumph over Georgian Vazha Margvelashvili, via an early waza-ari in Sunday's final contest on the tatami, was relatively straightforward.

Hifumi's celebration was initially one of relief before he became emotional after spotting an ecstatic Uta while soaking up the moment.

Hifumi Abe's path to these Games was arguably harder than the event itself, such is the sport's profile and depth of talent in Japan.

The 23-year-old needed to win a remarkable 24-minute bout against reigning world champion Joshiro Maruyama to secure his spot on the Olympic team.

A bloodied Abe broke down in tears after winning that unprecedented one-off selection showdown, which was televised, to claim the final spot on Japan's 14-strong judo team.

Meanwhile, Australian judoka Nathan Katz bowed out at the round-of-16 stage of his second Olympics.

Katz, who weathered three stints in hotel quarantine and multiple injuries en route to the 66kg competition in Tokyo, defeated Peru's Juan Postigos in his opening bout then lost to Israeli Baruch Shmailov.

"In Rio, I sat on the floor crying in my mum's lap because it didn't go the way that I wanted at all," Katz said, having needed several cortisone injections over the past year to help manage a broken rib and bulging disc.

"I'm not going home heartbroken (today). I'm disappointed, but I'll be alright."

Australian Associated Press