Skip to main content

2016 Olympic judo results: Kayla Harrison's gold-laden world

Kayla Harrison

From the Carioca Arena 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | Pictures courtesy of

Just in case there happened to be any, on Thursday afternoon, Kayla Harrison erased any doubt over who the greatest American judoka of all-time is.

Women’s Half-Heavyweight - 172 pounds (81 kg) --

Thoroughly dominating her competition, Harrison closed the book on her time in Rio by throwing and submitting Audrey Tcheumeo, of France, to claim her second consecutive Olympic Gold - the only two American judo Gold medals for any gender, in history.

The 26-year old Ohio native completely overwhelmed the awestruck Tcheumeo, also 26, by swarming all over her early, taking away the slim possibility that the Frenchwoman could attempt any offense.

Despite the domination, Tcheumo was still in the hunt as time was expiring. After picking up two shidos (penalty yellow cards) for being inactive, with a 0-0 score there was still a  Hail Mary shot for Tcheumo - who had beaten Harrison several times prior - if she could somehow throw the defending champion.

She couldn’t.

With 15 seconds left, Harrison - who could have just as easily laid back on defense, and let the time melt off - continued attacking. She dragged Tcheumo to the mat, swung over her back, and locked on a straight armbar that caused a panicked tapout with six seconds remaining.

France’s Audrey Tcheumeo quickly taps after having her arm straightened out by American Kayla Harrison.

Image placeholder title

With the victory, Harrison’s international judo career almost assuredly comes to an end. Before the Games, she spoke about this being her last run, which will end as the most decorated judoka in American history.

Born in Middletown, Ohio, the daughter of a judo black belt, Harrison’s career started off with great athletic success but, in the process, she was also being terrorized by abuse.

A two-time American junior champion by 15, Harrison began being sexually abused by her longtime coach Daniel Doyle at the age of 13. The abuse went on for several years until the young woman confided in another student, who, in turn, reported the abuse to her mother, who subsequently called authorities. At 16, Harrison moved to Massachusetts to train with Jimmy Pedro, where he sporting education continued, as the arduous process to start her life’s healing began.

Picking up multiple honors along the way, during the 2012 Games in London, Harrison became the first American to win a judo Gold medal when she soundly defeated home country hopeful Gemma Gibbons, throwing her twice.

After Thursday afternoon’s victory, Harrison joins her coach Pedro (who took home Bronze in 1996 and 2004) as the only two multiple-medal winners in American Olympic judo history.

Closing the show is something that Harrison made a career out of, and Thursday’s bouts were no different. En route to finishing Tcheumo, Harrison had also finished all three of her earlier tournament opponents by ippon - the judo equivalent of a TKO stoppage.

In the round of 16, it took Harrison only 43 seconds to toss China’s Zhang Zhehui. She followed that up by destroying Hungary’s Abigel Joo in 1:45, and submitting Slovenia’s Anamari Velensek in 1:43.

Kayla Harrison gets the armbar submission - one of her four finishes on Thursday - against Slovenia’s Anamari Velensek.

Image placeholder title

Despite being beaten for Gold, Audrey Tcheumeo’s SIlver medal run was quite impressive. Her mild upset of Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar during the semifinals denied judo enthusiasts one last battle between Aguiar and Harrison, which has been the division’s top rivalry for the past several years.

Most recently, over Memorial Day weekend, Harrison had defeated the fourth ranked Aguiar at the International Judo Federation’s World Masters competition, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Shutting out the partial crowd, Tcheumo and Aguilar dueled back and forth, with neither taking a big chance. Both had received yellow cards, and it seemed like the two would end up pulling-and-pushing their way into golden score (extra time).

The big turning point came with 31 seconds remaining. Aguilar picked up a gripping penalty for using her leg to help break Tcheumo’s hold on her sleeve, giving her a second yellow card penalty. With the advantage, Tcheumo further locked down on defense, and rode out a time limit victory.

With their semi-final losses, Aguilar, the 2014 World Champion, and  Velensek were off to see if they could salvage their days.

In the first, Aguilar, 25, gained a measure of redemption, as she took home Brazil’s second medal of the tournament, defeating Yalennis Castillo of Cuba.

Castillo, 30, was taken down immediately, and didn’t have the ability to puncture through Aguilar’s defense. The Cuban had defeated Hungary’s Abigel Joo during the repechage.

In the second Bronze medal match, looking for revenge after being tapped by Kayla Harrison, Slovenia’s Velensek simply overpowered Malzahn.

With a little over a minute remaining in the contest, Velensek dragged her German opponent to the mat, worked for, and locked in a jacket choke. The referee - literally - gave Malzahn right up until the moment of unconsciousness to escape, but she was unable.

You sleep now: Germany’s Luise Malzahn gets choked out by Slovenia’s Anamari Velensek during their Bronze medal bout.

Image placeholder title

Malzahn had advanced into the medal match by throwing Great Britain’s Natalie Powell in the repechage.

List of American judo medal winners all-time (as of Thursday night):

  • James Bregman - Middleweight - Bronze - 1964 - Mexico City
  • “Bad News” Allen Coage - Heavyweight - Bronze - 1976 - Montreal
  • Eddie Little - Extra Lightweight - Bronze - 1984 - Los Angeles
  • Robert Berland - Middleweight - Bronze - 1984 - Los Angeles
  • Kevin Asano - Extra Lightweight - Silver - 1988 - Seoul
  • Mike Swain - Lightweight - Bronze - 1988 - Seoul
  • Jason Morris - Half-Middleweight - 1992 - Barcelona
  • Jimmy Pedro - Lightweight - Bronze - 1996 - Atlanta
  • Jimmy Pedro - Lightweight - Bronze - 2004 - Athens
  • Ronda Rousey - Women’s Middleweight - Bronze - 2008 - Beijing
  • Marti Malloy - Women’s Lightweight - Bronze - 2012 - London
  • Kayla Harrison - Women’s Half-Heavyweight - Gold - 2012 - London
  • Travis Stevens - Half-Middleweight - Silver - 2016 - Rio
  • Kayla Harrison - Women’s Half-Heavyweight - Gold - 2016 - Rio

Men’s Half-Heavyweight - 220 pounds (100 kg) --

Unlike the women’s side of the ledger, which was predictably dominated by Kayla Harrison, the men’s half-heavyweight division had several Gold medal possibilities. And, when it was all said and done, Lukas Krpalek of the Czech Republic stood tall.

In a battle of men whose reputations inside Europe are of the highest regard, Krpalek, 25, defeated Azerbaijan's Elmar Gasimov, and became the first Czech fighter to win a judo medal.

Elmar Gasimov (Silver), Lukas Krpalek (Gold), Cyrille Maret (Bronze) and Ryunosuke Haga (Bronze) celebrate with their medals on the platform.

Image placeholder title

The end came when Krpalek got good position, and sunk his hooks into the top of Gasimov’s gi. As Gasimov began to counter, Krpalek stood him straight up, slipped his foot behind his leg, and then drove him backwards to the mat for the automatic stoppage.

A double European Champion, Krpalek’s career has been filled with great accomplishment. But, he’s also had trouble reaching the top step during events that are taking place outside of his home continent. The 2014 World Champion, he finished fifth at this year’s event in Kazakhstan and had finished tied for seventh during the 2012 Olympics.

Gasimov, 25, was the man Krpalek finished tied for seventh with during those Games. He was also on the losing end of Krpalek’s World Championship win in 2014, although he came into this year’s Games holding the division’s top World ranking.

A relentless competitor, Gasimov advanced to the final by defeating Ukraine’s Artem Bloshenko during the semifinal round.

In six matches, Gasimov has never lost to Bloshenko, 31, who turned in several upset performances to advance to possible medal positioning.

The other semifinal saw Krpalek defeat France’s Cyrille Maret.

With the losses, Maret and Bloshenko fell into the Bronze medal bracket, where their respective paths diverged. The two would face off against Germany’s Karl-Richard Frey, and Japan’s Ryunosuke Haga, respectively.

Celebrating his 29th birthday, Maret used an osotogari to sweep Frey’s leg, ending the German fighter’s run.

The Frenchman had Frey’s right arm extended, as he yanked on the left side of his collar. Forced to focus on being thrown from his torso, the off-balanced German became easy pickings to be taken down.

Maret came into the Games as the winner of the last three Paris Grand Prixs.

Frey, the 2015 World Championship Silver medalist, was upset by Bloshenko during the quarterfinal round and had defeated Egypt’s Ramadan Darwish during the repechage round to advance.

Seeded sixth coming into the Games, Japan’s Haga, 25, would take home the victory in the other Bronze medal match, defeating the aforementioned Bloshenko.

Haga moves into north-south position during the process of utilizing a match ending triangle choke.

Image placeholder title

A burgeoning star of the sport, Haga had the Ukranian on his heels and, after he was finally able to take Bloshenko down, ended up using a type of triangle choke to end the match.

With his victory, Haga won Japan’s fifty-first men’s judo medal (including the now-defunct open weight class, which ceased after 1984’s Games), and eighty-first, overall.

The 2015 World Champion, Haga had defeated Beka Gviniashvili, of Georgia, during the repechage round, to advance into the medal stage.

The Georgian received a shido for dropping to his knees to avoid a Haga throw, which ended up being the deciding fault of the bout.

The 20-year old Gviniashvili had actually looked to qualify for the Games in the 199 pound class, but, in March, moved up to 220 to allow teammate Varlam Liparteliani to make the squad. (Liparteliani won the Silver medal at 90 kilograms on Wednesday, losing the day’s final bout to Japan’s Mashu Baker.)

Unranked in the division, due to not having enough time in at 100 kilograms, Gviniashvili entered five competitions at his new weight, winning four Gold medals, and a Bronze.