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Friday, September 22
Douillet returns to retain Olympic crown

SYDNEY, Australia -- France's David Douillet, battling back from injury, sensationally retained his Olympic men's heavyweight judo title at the Sydney Games on Friday.

Douillet was fighting in only his third competition in the past three years because of a long-standing back complaint.

In the final, he beat world champion Shinichi Shinohara of Japan amid furious protests from the Japanese camp.

Bronze medals went to two Europeans, Tamerlan Tmenov of Russia and Indrek Pertelson of Estonia.

In the women's heavyweight final, a tactical affair between Chinese world silver medalist Yuan Hua and Cuban double open-weight world champion Daima Beltran, saw Yuan emerge victorious on a unanimous judges' decision.

Japanese head coach Yasuhiro Yamashita, an Olympic champion himself in 1984 in Los Angeles, led the protests over Shinohara's defeat.

Yamashita was furious that Shinohara was not awarded a perfect ippon score early in the final when Douillet was awarded a small score that proved decisive.

The dispute arose from a throw that Douillet began before over-rotating and landing on his back as both fighters fell to the mat.

Shinohara had not actually instigated the technique and, although one judge raised his arm to indicate an ippon for Shinohara, he was overruled by the other two and the score went Douillet's way.

The Frenchman's participation at the Olympics was not even confirmed until August when he completed a full tournament without aggravating his back injury.

Health concerns
Despite being the reigning champion and a four times World champion, many doubts were cast about his fitness and condition. But Douillet brushed them all aside with a majestic performance to set up the perfect retirement party.

He announced long ago his intention to retire after the Olympics and he bowed out in the best possible way with a second title and a third medal, equaling the record set by his countryman, Angelo Parisi, in the early eighties.

"I've come back a long way these last three years," said Douillet.

"I have mixed emotions about today. Obviously I am happy because I won the gold medal. But I am also sad because I have had to turn this page in the book. This chapter has taken up half my life and now it has come to an end."

During the news conference, Douillet was called on his mobile phone by both French President Jaques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

But while Douillet felt on top of the world, Shinohara was inconsolable and cried throughout the medal ceremony.

Yamashita was adament that his fighter had won the contest.

"This was a big mistake...the fight has clearly been misjudged," he said.

The women's heavyweight face-off pitted two fighters who had dominated their pools on the way to the final and looked a class apart from the competition.

Yuan and Beltran struggled in vain to turn each other onto their backs, managing only a few nonscoring knockdowns.

Yuan was the more positive and her superior fitness and speed ensured she was usually first to the attack. Although they were both penalized for passivity toward the end of the bout, Yuan's victory was rarely in doubt.

World champion Beata Maksymow of Poland suffered a surprise second-round defeat to American Colleen Rosensteel in a rare upset in the women's division.

The American then lost in the next round, so the world champion didn't even get a lifeline in the repechage. The two bronze medal fights were Asia-Europe contests in which both Asians came out on top.

Mayumi Yamashita of Japan, no relation to the coach, and Kim Seon-young of South Korea took their places on the podium.
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