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FEATURE Brazilian hopes for judo gold on day one of Rio Olympics crushed By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa

Europe
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Host nation Brazil had high hopes of scoring an early victory at the 2016 Games, with Olympic judo champion Sarah Menezes a favourite for gold in the first day of competitions. But the dream of starting off the Olympics with a bang was not to be.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Brazilian hopes for gold on the first day of the Rio home Olympics were crushed Saturday when judo champion Sarah Menezes crashed out of the Games injured and London 2012 bronze winner Felipe Kitadai did not make it to the podium.

Hopes had been high that Menezes would deliver gold on home soil, after she triumphed in her lightweight class four years ago in London, becoming the first female Olympic champion from Brazil.

"Judo is my life," the 26-year-old had said ahead of the Rio Games. "I love challenges and my next one is to become a two-time Olympic champion."

The odds seemed stacked in her favour when Menezes, ranked fourth in the world, made quick work of Belgian Charline van Snick and moved on to a quarter-final against Dayaris Mestre Alvarez of Cuba, who is ranked 17th in the world.

Boisterous Brazilian fans chanted, cheered and stomped their feet in the Carioca arena to urge on their champion.

But Mestre Alvarez, 29, remained cool under the pressure and repeatedly pushed Menezes down to the ground early in the bout. Neither of the women managed to score, but a penalty for a false attack ended up being the Brazilian‘s downfall.

A bid to at least qualify for a bronze medal then delivered the last blow, with Menezes dislocating her right elbow at the end of her repechage bout with Mongolia‘s world number one Urantsetseg Munkhbat.

"Sarah Menezes is injured. She has a dislocated right elbow.She has been taken to the hospital of the Olympic Village," judo team spokeswoman Manoela Penna said.

The gold medal in the women‘s 48-kilogram class remained in South America, however, won by Argentina‘s world number two Paula Pareto. She jumped in her coach‘s arms and broke down in tears after defeating South Korea‘s Jeong Bokyeong, who was left with silver.

Bronze medals were awarded to Japan‘s Ami Kondo and Kazakhstan‘s Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh.

Kitadai, ranked 14th in the world, had also been considered a possible contender for a gold medal in the men‘s lightweight class and reached the quarter-finals after winning a bout that left German Tobias Englmaier with a bloody nose.

But the 27-year-old Kitadai was then swiftly stopped in his tracks by Azerbaijan‘s Orkhan Safarov and lost a later repechage bid to at least qualify for bronze to Uzbekistan‘s Diyorbek Urozboev, who went on to win the medal along with Japan‘s Naohisa Takato.

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