Olympics: Judo

Olympic history in Harrison’s sights

Kayla Harrison is just one fight away from becoming the first American to win Olympic gold in judo. Her coach says the toughest fight of the tournament, in fact, is already out of the way.

“That’s the toughest match for us … Kayla took her apart,” Jimmy Pedro said after Harrison defeated Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar in the semifinals. “She physically looked so strong today. We’ve got everything going in the right direction. I’m fully confident Kayla’s coming home with a gold today.”

Harrison, who’s now posted three wins on the day, gets barely an hour rest before taking on Great Britain’s Gemme Gibbons — and an energetic British crowd — in the gold medal fight.

“Today’s her day,” Pedro said. “Today’s Kayla Harrison’s day. She’s making Olympic history today.”

Harrison advances to judo final

Kayla Harrison is one win away from the United States' first judo gold medal. (Franck Fife -- AFP/Getty Images)

American Kayla Harrison upset Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar, the world’s top-ranked judoka, in the 78kg semifinals and has secured at least a bronze medal.

With barely a minute remaining, Harrison took Aguiar down to the mat, scoring the fight’s first point. She won the fight about 45 seconds later with an armbar.

“This is my day,” Harrison had said earlier in the day. “This is my purpose.”

With Britain’s Gemma Gibbons scheduled to face France’s Audrey Techeumeo in the other semifinal, the arena was packed Thursday afternoon. Harrison will face the winner of that fight at 11 a.m. for the gold medal.

Aguiar and Harrison had faced each other nine times before, with Harrison winning five times. “She’s always a tough match,” Harrison had said earlier in the day. “But no one’s taking this away from me today.”

Harrison: ‘It was just a matter of time’

Kayla Harrison, in white, took down Hungary's Abigel Joo after Joo suffered an injury. (Franck Fiferanck -- AFP/Getty Images)

Judoka Kayla Harrison trailed for most of her 78-kg women’s quarterfinal fight against Hungary’s Abigel Joo on Thursday. But when Joo suffered a leg injury, Harrison saw her opening.

“Your catty side comes out,” said the American half heavyweight. “You go after it.”

As Joo struggled to walk, Harrison attacked, winning just one minute later by ippon. The Hungarian judoka represented a big obstacle on Harrison’s path to winning an Olympic medal here.

“Joo is a tough match for me,” Harrison said. “She’s a tall lefty. That’s something that I struggle with. She caught me early. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it. It was sort of: ‘Get up, pick up the pieces, let’s go! Push, push, push!’ ”

Though Joo grabbed an early 10-0 advantage, Harrison said her confidence never wavered.

“I knew I was in better shape than her, and I knew if I went my pace, she wasn’t going to be able to hang on,” Harrison said. “It was just a matter of time.”

Needing just one more win to secure an Olympic medal, Harrison faces top-ranked Mayra Aguiar, of Brazil, in the semifinals at 9:14 a.m.

Harrison aims for first U.S. judo gold

Kayla Harrison, shown here in May, is inching closer to a judo medal. (Steven Senne -- Associated Press)

With a pair of victories Thursday morning, judoka Kayla Harrison inched closer to becoming the first American to capture Olympic gold in the sport. Advancing into the semifinals of the tournament, she needs just one more victory to secure a medal.

Competing at 172 pounds, Harrison had a bye into the second round and opened Olympic competition against Vera Muskalyuk, needing less than a minute to dispose of the Russian with an armbar.

Not even an hour passed before Harrison was back on the mat, facing Hungarian Abigel Joo. Harrison fell behind 10-0 early, but with less than 2½ minutes remaining on the clock, Joo appeared to suffer an injury to right knee, struggling to walk on the mat. Harrison took advantage, going after the leg and winning by ippon just a minute later.

In the semifinals, Harrison will fight Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar, the top-ranked judoka in the world.

Harrison won the world championship in 2010 and entered this tournament ranked No. 4 in the world.

Stevens misses out on judo bronze

American Travis Stevens lost his bronze medal match against Antoine Valois-Fortier in the men’s 81 kg judo competition, pro-longing the U.S. men’s medal drought.

Travis Stevens narrowly missed out on a medal. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

Stevens had only 35 minutes to regroup after devastating semifinal loss to defending gold medalist Ole Bischof of Germany before returning to the mat to face the second repechage winner.

But after exhausting tremendous energy in his scoreless bout with Bischof, the three-time national champion simply ran out of gas. Valois-Fortier won the match 11-0 and when the clock ran out Stevens crumpled to the mat in despair.

U.S. men judokas have won only two medals – both bronze – in the last five Olympics.

Travis Stevens falls in judo semifinals

Travis Stevens (left) matched Ole Bischof on the scoreboard but lost the judges' decision. (Franck Fifefranck/Getty Images)

Travis Stevens‘s bid to become the first American to win Olympic gold in judo is over despite a scoreless semifinal bout with defending gold medalist German Ole Bischof.

Stevens, fighting with heavy tape over the left side of his face, kept Bischof off the board through three rounds of their men’s 81 kg match and into the golden score period. But when the clock ran out, a judges decision awarded the victory to the German.

The 26-year-old Stevens crumpled to the mat and was inconsolable after the decision. Bischof ousted Stevens from the main competition in the 2008 Beijing Games.

Stevens will now face Canadian Antoine Valois-Fortier – one of two repechage contest winners – for one of the two bronze medals.

Stevens scores judo upset

Travis Stevens, in white earlier Tuesday against Avtandil Tchrikishvili, advanced to the 81-kg judo semifinals. (Quinn Rooney -- Getty Images)

American Travis Stevens advanced to the semifinals of men’s 81kg judo, winning by waza-ari over Brazil’s Leandro Guilheiro, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed. Stevens will face Ole Bischof of Germany in the semifinals.

Saudi judoka allowed headscarf

Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani of Saudi Arabia will be allowed to compete Friday in the heavyweight judo competition while wearing some form of headscarf, the Associated Press reports.

Saudi Arabia sent female athletes to the Games for the first time this year, on the condition that they adhere to the nation’s Islamic traditions, headscarf included. But judo officials worry that such a covering could be dangerous in a sport that involves so many grabs and holds.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Tuesday that an agreement had been reached that is “safety compliant but also allows for cultural sensitivity.”