Judo superstar makes Olympic rivals cry

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Shohei Ono made 2 of his archetypal 3 opponents outcry erstwhile helium returned to judo astatine the Tokyo Olympics aft 18 mysterious months away.

These were not tiny tears, either. Loud, body-shaking sobs emanated from the men who had to locomotion down Ono successful decision done the different hushed halls of the Budokan, giving dependable to the anguish of bonzer athletes whose lifetimes of mentation had inactive near them unequipped to past 4 minutes against Japan's elusive judo superstar.

Turkey's Bilal Çiloğlu, the world's No. 9 lightweight, screamed and enactment his fists to his caput aft Ono pinned him helplessly to the tatami for an ippon, his wails echoing down the corridors.

Azerbaijan's Rustam Orujov, 2nd ranked successful the satellite and top-seeded successful Tokyo, dried his eyes with his untucked gi aft Ono ended the rematch of their golden medal bout successful Rio de Janeiro with 2 waza aris 65 seconds apart.

Shohei Ono (white) of Japan is simply a Judo superstar. (Getty)

Ono is the astir ascendant subordinate connected a Japanese judo squad that mightiness beryllium the champion successful Olympic history. His operation of brute ferocity and tactical invention person kept him unbeaten since 2015, adjacent successful an Olympic value people stacked with unthinkable talents — lone 1 of whom has ever adjacent scored a constituent against Ono.

The 29-year-old Ono is present a two-time Olympic champion aft winning 5 consecutive matches astatine the Budokan, completing his instrumentality with a superiority implicit his peers that lone helium tin boast successful the modern sport. Not adjacent two-time Olympic champ Teddy Riner, the monolithic French heavyweight who went a decennary betwixt losses, is arsenic ascendant arsenic Ono now.

Ono is besides idiosyncratic: He decided not to vie betwixt the commencement of the coronavirus pandemic and the Olympics, choosing a way to golden that would look foolish to a judoka without his abilities.

Ono has followed this strategy before: He skipped 2 consecutive satellite championships aft Rio, but returned astatine the Budokan successful 2019 to assertion his 3rd satellite title. Ono seemingly feels helium benefits much from hard grooming successful Japan's peerless home strategy than connected tourney trips to far-flung locations, and his results are unquestionable.

"I was not successful a lucifer for a agelong time, but I decided to beryllium practical," Ono said done a translator. "I tried to prosecute successful the training. I was not idle. I stayed focused."

All the months distant couldn't shingle the absorption of this judoka with 2 bulbous cauliflower ears shaped by years of being grinded into mats and attached to a caput shaped similar a overgarment tin and stacked connected a heavy neck.

Ono looks similar a brawler, but his judo is built connected speed, spot and a relentless diverseness of technique. He besides sometimes uses the evocative connection of martial arts acquisition to dependable his goals and aspirations: For instance, helium said his extremity for these Olympics was "to determination from a judoka with overwhelming beingness to a judoka with implicit presence. I deliberation I person travel person to that target."

Ono reacts aft defeating Bilal Ciloglu of Team Turkey during the Mens Judo 73kg Elimination Round 16 connected time 3 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games astatine Nippon Budokan connected July 26, 2021 successful Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) (Getty)

Any conception of rustiness vanished erstwhile the aforesaid vicious rival won his opening bouts Monday.

Because Ono hadn't fought since aboriginal 2020, helium came into the Olympic gully unseeded and ranked 13th successful the world. That meant catastrophe for Orujov, who apt would person steamrolled into the last if Ono hadn't been drawn into his quarterfinal.

Ono memorably bushed Orujov successful the Rio Olympic last and again successful the 2019 satellite title final. Ono took isolated the decorated Azeri champion yet again astatine the Olympics, finishing him with 49 seconds left.

In the evening, Ono's 2 fights were tougher. His golden medal bout was an epic showdown with Georgia's Lasha Shavdatuashvili, a fearless seasoned who secured his 3rd Olympic medal portion getting Ono into respective unsafe situations.

"I had immoderate fearfulness going into aureate score," Ono admitted.

Ono won erstwhile helium abruptly executed a sasae tsurikomi ashi — pulling Shavdatuashvili toward him and sweeping his opponent's ft backward — for the decisive waza ari astir 5 1/2 minutes into sudden-death aureate score.

"I americium a small disappointed, of course, but Ono is the champion judoka," Shavdatuashvili said. "He's truthful strong, and helium ne'er makes mistakes. The champion won."

Ono is not a idiosyncratic who reveals overmuch successful public, and helium didn't observe his 2nd Olympic golden medal successful immoderate disposable mode connected the level of the venerable Budokan, a ineffable spot to him since his youth.

Ono enactment his manus connected his bosom for the Japanese anthem, but aft helium accepted his medal from IOC President Thomas Bach, helium shrugged it onto his cervix and stood expressionless connected the podium similar helium was waiting for a bus.

But inside, Ono was alert of the moment. Before bowing and leaving the tatami, helium stared for a agelong infinitesimal astatine the ceiling of martial arts' spiritual home.

"I wanted to inscribe each representation into my head," helium said.

Ono's repetition quest is over, but his games aren't: He volition vie successful the archetypal Olympic mixed squad lawsuit Saturday, joining Japan's champion successful different contention to headdress what is shaping up to beryllium a ascendant exhibition. Japan has won 4 golds, 1 metallic and 1 bronze from conscionable the archetypal 3 days successful Tokyo, with 8 much value classes to go.

"I'm already reasoning astir that squad lucifer close now," Ono said. "I can't relax. I conscionable privation to get a constituent for Japan."

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