Russia wants gold rush

Judo champ Mudranov says compatriots prepared to deliver

Russia's Beslan Mudranov (white) celebrates after defeating Kazakhstan's Yeldos Smetov during their men's -60kg gold-medal match.
Russia's Beslan Mudranov (white) celebrates after defeating Kazakhstan's Yeldos Smetov during their men's -60kg gold-medal match. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIO DE JANEIRO • Beslan Mudranov won Russia's first gold medal at the Rio Games in judo on Saturday and warned that his country had plenty more to prove.

His victory comes two days after Russia's judo team were officially cleared to participate in the Olympics, after his country escaped a blanket ban over its doping record.

"There has been a lot of psychological pressure that our country Russia has been subject to. Here, to win a gold medal on the very first day, of course it means a lot for my country," Mudranov said.

"Of course, our country will prove to everyone that we can win the gold. I'm pretty confident that this is not the last gold medal we have won."

His gold in the men's Under-60kg class follows his compatriot Arsen Galstyan's win in the same weight class at London 2012.

In a tense duel with Kazahkstan's Yeldos Smetov that went into "golden score" extra time, Mudranov - ranked 16th in the world - threw Smetov to score a match-ending waza-ari and earn his first Olympic gold.

Japan's Naohisa Takato and Diyorbek Urozboev of Uzbekistan took the bronze.

The World Anti-Doping Agency had called for a total ban on Russian athletes in Rio in response to the independent McLaren report that found evidence of state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Mudranov said such a ban would not have been right.

"The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he should realise that it would be unjust for the athletes who have spent their entire life preparing for the competition - for some of them it would probably be the only Olympic Games in their life," he said.

"We came here prepared and no one broke down under this psychological pressure."

Russia finished fourth in the medal table in London four years ago, but face the disadvantage of having their smallest contingent in more than a century - only 271 athletes.

While Russia are basking in their big confidence boost, hosts Brazil are reeling from the setback of failing to win a first gold medal on the first day of competition.

Their best hope had been local judo favourite Maria Menezes, who won gold in London four years ago in the women's U-48kg category.

However, the world No. 4 in her weight class struggled to gain much traction all day. She edged past Belgium's Charline van Snick in her first match, before losing to 17th-ranked Dayaris Mestre Alvarez of Cuba on a single penalty in the quarter-finals.

To make matters worse, Menezes was visibly in pain as she dislocated her elbow and spent several moments lying on the tatami after she lost to Mongolia's Urantsetseg Munkhbat in the repechage round, before leaving the arena in tears.

Argentina's Paula Pareto won gold - the first ever in judo for her country - beating South Korea's Jeong Bok Yeong with a waza-ari throw. Japan's Ami Kondo and Kazakhstan's Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh took bronze.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'Russia wants gold rush'. Print Edition | Subscribe