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1ST LEAD They won it like they planned it: Two Japanese judokas strike gold By Albert Otti, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Japanese star judoka Mashu Baker and his compatriot Haruka Tachimoto checked Olympic gold off their to-do lists Wednesday at the mens‘90-kilogram and the womens‘ 70kg events, respectively.

The two not only fulfilled their personal plans, but Baker also made up for Japan‘s shame from the 2012 London Games, when the judokas from the country that invented the sport failed to bring home a single gold medal.

While many athletes who have won in Rio de Janeiro professed to be surprised, these two made it clear that they had a plan and that they executed it.

"The opportunity to show that we are strong in judo is not in international events or world championships, but in the Olympic Games. My head coach told us, and we knew that," 21-year-old Baker said.

Baker went into the Rio tournament as the top seed, having won three grand slams and one World Cup event last year, as well as this year‘s world masters title.

In Rio, the Japanese-American athlete visibly outclassed his opponents in speed and technical versatility.

In his final bout, he defeated Georgia‘s Varlam Liparteliani by a yuko score for victory.

While Liparteliani walked away with silver, South Korean world champion Gwak Dong Han and China‘s Cheng Xunzhao won bronze.

Baker, who said he had been dreaming of being an Olympian champion since childhood, has the advantage of being versed both in the Japanese judo style, which stresses traditional technique, and the European style, which uses more wrestling-style strength.

"My high-school coach taught me both techniques," Baker said.

He dedicated his medal to his mother who raised him as a single parent, he said.

In the women‘s 70-kilogram class finale, Tachimoto threw Colombian triple world champion Yuri Alvear and held her down to for decisive ippon score.

Having entered into the Rio tournament as a favourite, Alvear took silver, while Britain‘s Sally Conway and Germany‘s Laura Vargas Koch clinched bronze medals.

Tachimoto had been ranked only seventh in London, but she refused to give up, the 26-year-old athlete said.

"It was not a surprise," she said about her victory in Rio. "I decided to be a champion and I wanted to be a champion."

Congolese judokas Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa did not win anything Wednesday, but the members of the International Olympic Committee‘s refugee team stressed that they drew great strength from being able to compete on such a global stage.

To the cheers of his Brazilian fans, Misenga made it to the round of 16, where he was eliminated by Gwak.

"I want everybody to get on my side and support me, because I am going to win a medal one day," Misenga said afterwards and vowed to work hard to qualify for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Bukasa and Misenga both turned to judo after they lost their families in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a civil war raged from 1998 to 2003. They applied for asylum when they came to Rio for the 2013 world championships.

Despite her defeat in the first round on Wednesday, Bukasa vowed she would continue competing in judo.

"I am a warrior, not because I am in judo, but because I am a real warrior," she said.

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