SHOHEI ONO RESTORED THE PRIDE OF JUDO’S BIRTH COUNTRY BY WINNING JAPAN’S FIRST GOLD SINCE BEIJING 2008.

Japan’s Shohei Ono won gold in the men’s -73kg judo, ending an anxious wait for a Japanese men’s team that had not claimed Olympic gold since 2008 in Beijing.

Ono had been on a surge all day and emphatically capped his campaign with an ippon — judo’s equivalent of a knockout — to defeat Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan. Belgium’s Dirk Van Tichelt and Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili took bronze.

“I am happy to win the gold medal,” he said.

“It is a big achievement for me. I was practising hard in Japan to get in good shape. But it was difficult to show the level of my practice in the Olympic Games. I felt a lot of pressure, but I could do it.”

Ono’s victory ended Japan’s sequence of five judo bronze medals in Rio. Japan won just one gold medal in judo at the London Games, considered an embarrassment for the birthplace of the sport, and is eager to atone in Rio.

Meanwhile gold medals were at stake in Rio on Monday in the women’s -57kg and men’s -73kg categories.

Judoka Rafaela Silva delivered the first gold medal for the host country when she won the women’s -57kg. An aggressive Silva scored waza-ari over Mongolia’s Sumiya Dorjsuren with a throw a little over a minute into the final and was able to hold on to that lead amid deafening cheering from the stands.

Dorjsuren’s silver medal was the first Olympic judo medal for a Mongolian woman. London 2012 Olympic Games champion and Rio favourite Kaori Matsumoto from Japan had to content herself with bronze this time after losing to Dorjsuren in the semifinal. Experienced Olympian Telma Monteiro from Portugal claimed the other bronze medal.

“It feels great. I have waited 12 years for this and this is my fourth Olympics. I did it. I’m speechless,” said Monteiro.