Shahana Hajiyeva and Vugar Shirinli ensured a golden hour for Azerbaijan with back-to-back judo titles at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics here. Azerbaijan picked up two gold medals in the space of 50 minutes as Hajiyeva's victory in the women’s U48kg final was followed by Shirinli’s success in the men’s U60kg weight class. Cherine Abdellaoui of Algeria and Uchkun Kuranbaev of Uzbekistan were also crowned Paralympic champion in the women’s U52kg classe and men’s under-66kg categories respectively on the opening day of judo at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo.
Vugar Shirinli is the man who defeated Tadahiro Nomura in 2009, now he was the one taking an Olympic gold medal and he captured Azerbaijan's second judo gold in a thrilling contest.
Shirinli registered the opening point with an ippon-seoi-nage for a waza-ari, before Sariyev responded 20 seconds later to level the scores.
Sariyev received two shidos in quick succession as the bout headed into its final minute of normal time.
With 36 seconds left, Shirinli drove Sariyev to the ground, only for the judges to rule against him, before the Azerbaijani fighter then pulled off the same move to secure victory with a uchi-mata.
The bronze medals went to Turkey’s Recep Ciftci and Romania’s Alex Bologa, beating Dennis Marcos Blanco of Colombia and Uzbekistan’s Sherzod Namozov respectively.
Hajiyeva’s gold for Azerbaijan
Hajiyeva set the ball rolling for Azerbaijan when she overcame plucky French fighter Sandrine Martinet in a tense encounter that was decided in the golden-score period.
The 21-year-old quickly asserted herself, securing a waza-ari inside the opening 30 seconds.
This looked like being enough to seal victory in normal time as Hajiyeva did brilliantly to fend off Martinet’s attacks, but with just five seconds remaining, Martinet was awarded a waza-ari courtesy of a tomoe-nage.
Hajiyeva was incensed by the decision but managed to compose herself before producing an ouchi-gari to seal a title-winning waza-ari with 40 seconds gone in the golden-score period.
Viktoriia Potapova of RPC and Yuliia Ivanytska of Ukraine both secured bronze medals after beating Lee Kai Lin of Chinese Taipei and Shizuka Hangai of Japan respectively.
Abdellaoui surprises with gold
Abdellaoui delivered Algeria’s first gold of the Paralympics in Tokyo with a superb display to beat Priscilla Gagne of Canada.
The Algerian dominated from the word go, forcing Gagne to the ground on several occasions inside the first 90 seconds.
Her early pressure was rewarded with a waza-ari, before securing another on the two-minute mark to clinch the title.
Alesia Stepaniuk of RPC overcame Japan’s Yui Fujiwara to clinch bronze, before Nataliya Nikolaychyk of Ukraine also sealed a spot on the podium with victory over Germany’s Ramona Brussig.
Uzbekistan's Kuranbaev's persistence paid off as he defeated Sergio Ibanez Banon of Spain to win men's under-66kg gold.
Ibanez Banon responded well to Kuranbaev's attacks as the match remained scoreless after the first two minutes.
Kuranbaev's frustration grew as he received a second shido, adding to the one he picked up at the start of the bout.
Ibanez Banon was then penalised in the golden-score period for avoiding the grip, before Kuranbaev sealed victory with a waza-ari.
Afghanistan picked up its third medal of the day when Namig Abasli saw off Ukraine’s Davyd Khorava to bag bronze.
Japan also got on the podium when Yujiro Seto defeated Giori Gamjashvili of Georgia.