x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Olympics: Japanese wrestler grapples with importance after win

"It happened all of a sudden, so I can't think how important it was," Yonemitsu says after beating India's Sushil Kumar.

Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu of Japan (blue) fights with Sushil Kumar of India.
Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu of Japan (blue) fights with Sushil Kumar of India.

Japan's 24-year wait for an Olympic men's wrestling gold medal ended yesterday when Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu beat India's Sushil Kumar in the 66kg freestyle final.

"I have dedicated all of my life to take the gold medal," said the 26-year-old Yonemitsu, the runner-up at last year's world championships, after adding his title to the three won by Japan's female wrestlers in London.

During the final, he edged ahead in the first period before producing a huge lift and slam on Kumar in the second to all but seal his 3-1 victory.

"It happened all of a sudden, so I can't think how important it was," Yonemitsu said. "For Japanese men's wrestling, I think I have made a big contribution so I am very happy."

Kumar, a Beijing bronze medallist, became the first Indian competitor in an individual sport to win medals at successive Olympics.

The 2010 world champion said he had suffered a stomach upset after his semi-final, having endured a gruelling path to the final that started with an opening bout against the 2008 gold medallist Ramazan Sahin of Turkey.

"I had a stomach infection but difficulty and pain are part of the sport, I don't want to make excuses," said Kumar, who vowed to carry on to the 2016 Games in Rio.

Kumar's semi-final win over Akzhurek Tanatarov of Kazakhstan was marred by allegations he had bit his opponent.

But Kumar said: "These are ridiculous allegations. These things happen [blood injuries]."

Elsewhere, Jacob Varner ensured the United States won two men's wrestling golds at a single Olympics for the first time since Atlanta 1996 with a 3-0 victory over Valerii Andriitsev of Ukraine.

Varner's triumph followed that of his teammate Jordan Burroughs in the 74kg freestyle on Friday.

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