LONDON (Reuters) - Brazil’s Sarah Menezes, who had to sneak off to training as a child because her parents disapproved of judo, was toasting an Olympic gold medal on Saturday and a life-changing future.
After defeating reigning Olympic champion Alina Dumitru of Romania in the women’s -48kg category on Saturday, a beaming Menezes said it would take time for her win to sink in.
“The penny has only half-dropped,” she told reporters. “I hoped one day to reach the Olympic podium and I did it at the age of 22 so I‘m very, very happy. I believe that this medal will change my life.”
Dumitru, defending the title she won in Beijing, was outdone by the Brazilian who gradually took the ascendancy in the final, winning with two scoring throws in the final minute.
Menezes, a student appearing in her second Olympics, punched her fists in the air and leapt into the arms of her coach, who hails from the same town in a rural, remote part of northern Brazil.
However, she might never have become Olympic champion at all if she had not defied her parents and slipped out to judo training with the help of a neighbour after taking up the sport when she was nine.
”When I started out my parents believed judo was a sport for men, not women,“ she said. ”I was able to negotiate with them so they would let me enjoy my sport if I did not neglect my studies.
“When I started to travel internationally and my talent became recognised they stopped opposing me being in judo and it turned out for much better. And I’ve always been able to reconcile sport and study to this very day.”
Dumitru, who said she would retire after the Games, had earlier upset the number one seed and favourite Tomoko Fukumi of Japan.
Fukumi’s disappointing day was completed when Hungary’s Eva Csernoviczki threw her on the mat to win bronze with an ippon, an automatic winning throw, in extra time.
Csernoviczki had earlier lost consciousness while being strangled during a bout with Belgium’s Charline van Snick in the quarter-finals, but recovered quickly despite looking a bit shaky.
“I felt like I was sleeping. I didn’t feel good,” she told reporters with a broad smile. “My coach said no problem, now you have to go and focus on your next fight.”
Third seed Van Snick, 21, took the other bronze by defeating Argentina’s Paula Pareto, a bronze winner four years ago, in a close fight that also went to extra time.
Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Ed Osmond and Jason Neely