Tani, Nomura reign

ATHENS, AUG. 14. Ryoko Tani of Japan took her second consecutive Olympic gold medal on Saturday, winning the women's 48-kg judo event for her fourth Olympic medal since 1992.

Tani defeated France's Frederique Jossinet in the final, a repeat of last year's world championship final in Japan.

The bronze medals went to Julia Matijass of Germany and Feng Gao of China.

Tani became the first woman to win two consecutive judo gold medals. She is a six-time world champion and fought in the Olympic final four straight times.

Entering the Olympic scene as a 16-year-old finalist at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, where she lost in the final there, Tani then went four years and 84 matches without a loss, a streak broken in the final of the 1996 Atlanta Games. She finally succeeded in winning gold at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Against Jossinet, she countered every move and scored the first point. Jossinet gave a little opening and Tani took advantage to move her foot inside Jossinet's ankle and drove forward and took her to the mat.

That put her in command and Tani held the advantage through the rest of the five-minute bout.

At the end, Tani allowed herself a little hop, then a bigger hop. She gave the traditional bow and then warmly embraced Jossinet.

Coming off the mat she acknowledged the great number of Japanese fans, who waved fans and flags throughout the match, then cried as she left the area. She was more composed when she accepted the gold medal and wore the tradition laurel wreath as she listened to her national anthem at the medal ceremony.

In the men's 60-kg. class, Tadajiro Nomura won his third consecutive Olympic gold medal to give Japan the first two judo golds.

Tani is among the most popular figures in Japan. She is nicknamed `Yawara-chan', after a comic-book character in her country who just happens to be a judo specialist.

There was some concern about a freak injury a month ago when she got a toe stuck between judo mats and hurt her left leg and ankle. But it didn't stop her.

Now Tani can relax and contemplate her future.

Tani is now 28 and married to Japanese baseball player Yoshitomo Tani who also is competing at the games. — AP

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