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Gold medals shared by more countries, bright future for Africa
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22:14, August 16, 2008

With Japan's Satoshi Ishii winning the men's heavyweight division on Friday, the Olympic judo tournament concluded in the Beijing Science and Technology University gymnasium after seven-day sweating, winning and enjoying at the 29th Olympic Games.

A total of 386 judokas, by furious competition in 14 categories, have sliced their share of all 56 Olympic judo medals to 25 countries in Beijing.

Although decreased by half, Japan still won four gold medals through three defending champions and the fledging star Ishii.

China, coming just behind, won a historical three golds by two in their domains of women's half-lightweight and heavyweight and one surprise in women's half-heavyweight.

Except the seven shared by Japan and China, the other half of gold medals have been split by seven countries of South Korea, Azerbaijan, Germany, Georgia, Italy, Romania and Mongolia.

Compared by an overwhelming gold rush of eight at the Athens Games, Japanese judokas' slightly disappointing performance in Beijing has been imputed to a slow growth of rising stars.

Japan sent seven reigning champions to the Beijing Games, however, only three of them succeeded in retaining their titles.

China, as a constant gold medalist in women's heavyweight and half-lightweight divisions, successfully defended their titles by judokas Xian Dongmei and Tong Wen, who missed the Athens Games for injury and became a grad slam champion by defeating Maki Tsukada for the sixth times.

Judo's development in more countries has given surprises in Beijing. Azerbaijan and Mongolia, for the first time in their Olympic history, won a gold medal in Olympic judo events respectively in men's lightweight and half-heavyweight. In particular, the judo gold medal has also made Tuvshinbayar Naidan the first Olympic champion of Mongolia.

Another delighting trend in judo at the Beijing Games is the rising of Africa. African nations have won the most medals in judo competition in their Olympic history.

Africa has sent 41 competitors for judo at the Beijing Games. Algeria is best represented by 10 athletes followed by six from Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and three from Senegal.

A bronze medal by Algeria's Soraya Haddad in the women's 52kg division was the first in a series of judo medals for African nations at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Three days later, Algeria's Amar Benikhlef won a silver in the men's 100kg category and beside him was bronze medallist Hesham Mesbah from Egypt.

Benikhlef's breakthrough has been a fruit cultivated by the International Training Center of International Judo Federation (IJF) established in Morocco, where judokas were head coached by former Italian judo star Ezio Gamba, Olympic champion in Moscow 1981 and silver in Los Angeles 1984.

"The International Training Center in Morocco was a test project which showed in a short period of time to be very successful. IJF will open soon one Training Center in each continent to develop judo all over the world," said International Judo Federation president Marius Vizer.

Some 10 African nations sent only one Judo athlete, such as Mozambique. "Judo only came to Mozambique 10 years ago via Portugal," said coach Omar of Mozambique. "Judo is a booming sport in our country and we have growth of 75 percent every year."

Although Mozambique's Edson Madeira did not make the second round in men's 66kg class, it has been revealed that African judo will have a promising future.

Another important support for the sport's development in Africa comes from Judo's homeland, Japan. "We receive a lot of equipment from Japan in a bilateral cultural project", said Omar.

Source: Xinhua

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1 China 27 12 6 45
2 USA 16 15 19 50
3 Germany 8 4 5 17
4 South Korea 6 9 3 18
5 Italy 6 5 4 15
6 Japan 6 4 4 14
7 Australia 5 7 10 22
8 Russia 4 4 8 20
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