August 22, 2016 / 2:07 AM / a year ago

Judo: Japan back on top but others on the rise

2016 Rio Olympics - Judo - Quarterfinal - Men -73 kg Quarterfinals - Carioca Arena 2 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO) of Georgia and Shohei Ono (JPN) of Japan compete. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Judo powerhouse Japan topped the table at the Rio Olympics but a record 26 different nations won medals, highlighting the sport’s deep pool of talent as its global appeal increases.

Coming into the Games, Japan’s judokas were already under pressure from up-and-coming nations and looking to atone for their disappointing results in London four years ago. Now they return home saying ‘mission accomplished’.

Japan claimed three gold and 12 medals overall, a record for total medals won in judo at an Olympics.

Shohei Ono took the first judo gold of Japan’s Rio campaign, in the men’s -73kg division. On day five, they struck double gold through Haruka Tachimoto in the women’s -70kg and Mashu Baker in the men’s -90kg.

Although Hisayoshi Harasawa had to settle for silver in the men’s +100kg final, he gave French superstar Teddy Riner a tough time, losing on penalties in an otherwise scoreless bout and proving himself a fighter to watch.

France were kept waiting until the seventh and final day of action to win gold with anxious fans pinning their hopes on the unstoppable Riner, who is unbeaten since 2010.

But it was Emilie Andeol who struck first in the earlier final in the women’s +78kg division.

France also won two silver and one bronze, finishing second in the medal table.

Russia, who topped the table in London, also won two gold medals.

Majlinda Kelmendi made history by becoming the first athlete from Kosovo to win an Olympic medal, with gold in the women’s -52kg, and Paula Pareto won Argentina’s first ever judo gold medal, in the -48kg category.

In perhaps the biggest feel-good moment, Rafaela Silva won the women’s -57kg weight class to claim Brazil’s first gold in Rio, capping a journey to the podium that began in the city’s notorious “City of God” slum.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher, editing by Neil Robinson

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