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Throwback Sydney Olympics 18 September with European joy

Throwback Sydney Olympics 18 September with European joy

18 Sep 2000 14:55
TWOJ, the world of Judo, by Barnaby Chesterman - Hans van Essen / judo news, results and photos

At 18 September 2000 in Sydney two European nations celebrated a gold medal for their legends. At the third day of the Olympic Games Isabel Fernandez of Spain and Giuseppe Maddaloni of Italy changed their lives with Olympic gold. Nowadays they are still valuable for our sport. JudoInside witnessed those games closeby. We throwback 20 years ago to 18 September 2000, drawn up by Barnaby Chesterman on behalf of The World of Judo Magazine.

Giuseppe Maddaloni of Italy and Isabel Fernandez of Spain took home the spoils on an incredible day at the Olympic Judo tournament in Sydney. Maddaloni triumphed in the men's -73kgs category after a string of sensational upsets resulted in a very unfamiliar looking medal rostrum. Meanwhile Fernandez beat her old adversary, Driulis Gonzales of Cuba to avenge her defeat in the final of last year's World championships in Birmingham.

Maddaloni may have won the gold medal but two other fighters made even greater headlines with magnificent performances that surpassed any possible expectations. Yong Sun Choi of South Korea must have thought about going home early when he saw his quarter of the draw contained both the Olympic and World champions, but he relished the challenge with great aplomb. Choi faced Jimmy Pedro of the USA in his round but he managed to out fight the World champion and win by a penalty. Then in the quarter-finals he faced the Olympic champion, Kenzo Nakamura of Japan but again the 22-year-old was unfazed and shocked his opponent by throwing him for Ippon with a left-sided Tai-otoshi.

If that story was incredible, then so too was that of Choi's semi-final opponent. Choi found himself up against the 18-year-old Brazilian sensation, Tiago Camillo, who had only made his way to the semi-final by virtue of some stunning late Ippons. Camillo was on fire, though, and made short work of Choi to become the most unlikely of finalists. Only two years ago as a 16-year-old, Camillo was winning the World Junior title in Cali, Colombia. Then last year he suffered a bad knee injury that wrecked his season. This year was supposed to be a transitional one for him to gain senior experience while looking forward to his main goal of retaining his Junior World title next month. But Camillo progressed so quickly that he won a silver medal at the prestigious Tournoi de Paris in February and then incredibly beat the World championship bronze medallist, Sebastian Perreira in the Brazilian Olympic qualification tournament. His inexperience showed in the final, however, as he was countered for Ippon when attacking Maddaloni with his favourite technique, a left-handed Uchi-mata (inner thigh throw). That cued Maddaloni's little flip before the emotional Italian burst into tears. He said: "It hasn't sunk in yet, maybe it will tomorrow. This is a dream for every athlete in the world."

Day 3- Zelonijs LATIn the men's tournament Pedro and Nakamura faced up in a high profile repechage fight, that many had expected to be the final. Pedro won with a brilliant Kouchi-gari (minor inner reap) for Waza-ari before the two champions exchanged respect and congratulations after the bout, displaying great sportsmanship. Pedro was expected to go on and take a bronze medal but he was upset once again by Anatoly Laryukov of Belarus. Pedro had only lost one fight since winning a bronze medal in Atlanta, but it wasn't his day and he went away empty handed. The other bronze medal went to Vsevolods Zelonijs of Latvia who threw the unfortunate Choi for Ippon to take his place on the podium. Zelonijs celebrated with a backwards somersault before planting an unwanted kiss on the cheek of his defeated opponent. Choi was left to rue an incredible tournament, where, despite beating both the World and the Olympic champion, he still failed to win a medal.

The women's -57kgs event went much more to form, although there was an early surprise when one of the favourites, Cheryle Peel from Great Britain, lost poorly in the first round to Kie Kusakabe of Japan. Kusakabe almost claimed another scalp in the second round against Fernandez, but the Spaniard won a debateable judges' decision. The final was a repeat of the last two World Championship finals between the two dominant women in the category. Fernandez was champion in 1997 but last year she lost the final against Driulis Gonzalez of Cuba, who was also the reigning Olympic champion. This time, though, Fernandez's rugged, scrappy style got the better of the Cuban by a single penalty. Afterwards her happiness was spread all over a beaming smile as she said: "I have been dreaming for four years about reaching the Olympic final and then standing on the top tier of the rostrum. Now I have finally won the medal, I cannot believe it. It feels like I am still dreaming. Now the dream is realised I am going to touch the medal every day so that I can keep remembering this moment." Fernandez then paid tribute to her husband of three years who is her trainer at her home-town club. "I would like to dedicate this medal to my husband because he has been training me and accompanying me to tournaments all over the world."

Kusakabe got her just reward as she came back through the repechage to claim a bronze medal. The Japanese faced Jun Shen of China but the reigning Asian champion made short work of her and after scoring a Yuko, she scored Ippon with a typical Osoto-gari. Kusakabe suffered a serious injury last year that wrecked her season and cost her a place at the World championships. This season, though, she has bounced back in stunning fashion by winning the Asian championships in June and now winning an Olympic medal. The 22-year-old said: "I am really happy because I gave everything on the biggest stage. Although I was aiming for gold, I did my best so I am satisfied. Now I think I will have a bright future and there are great tasks ahead of me. "

The other bronze went to the home favourite, Maria Pekli of Australia, courtesy of a dubious judges' decision. Pekli had lost another decision to Fernandez in the semi-final but in the bronze medal fight she won a split decision against Cinzia Cavazutti of Italy. The Italian had seemed to be more dominant and was distraught at the end with what appeared to be a crowd-influenced decision. When asked if she thought the passionate home crowd had influenced the decision, Pekli replied honestly, "I think so, but I hope not." Pekli, was delighted to have won a medal, though, after losing three years of competition following a dispute with her native Hungarian association when she moved to Australia. She won a European championship silver medal back in 1996 in Belgium and now she has an Olympic bronze to add to that.

Australian Pekli was recently inducted in the Hall of Fame of the IJF. Tiago Camilo is going to qualify for his fourth Olympic Games.

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