July 23rd, the opening day for combat sports in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games would begin with three martial arts events. Boxing, Taekwondo and Judo all began, with both the two latter awarding some medals on the first day of competition.
In the boxing ring, fans around the world witnessed some of the best young talent in the world. Ireland’s Kurt Walker put on a clinic, using his range and picking apart his opponent from Spain. On the other end of the spectrum we also got to see a gritty and competitive split decision battle between American Duke Ragan and France’s own Samuel Kistohurry.
However the most impressive performance in Boxing’s entrance into the 32nd Olympics came through Serik Temirzhanov of Kazakhstan vs. Hungary’s Roland Galos. Temirzhanov looked to be on another level, when he controlled the ring, and used a high fight IQ to counter the Hungarian’s rushes forward. While Galos fired back, landing the occasional power shot, the The far more efficient Kazakhstani fighter found himself wasting no movement as he picked his fading opposition apart to a unanimous decision victory, even scoring 30-25 on two of the judges’ scorecards in only a 3 round bout.
Compelling match ups also littered Olympic Taekwondo yesterday as well, with both Vito Dell’Aquila from Italy and Panipak Wongpattanakit of Thailand taking home gold for their respective countries.
However, one of the most dominant performances of the night would take place long before the medals were awarded. Thi Kim Tuyen of Vietnam would put on a show in only the 6th match of Tokyo 2020, by defeating Canada’s own Yvette Yong at 49kg.
Yong put forth her best efforts and represented both herself and her country with everything she had. She showed immense heart on the biggest stage of her competitive career so far, but the story of the match was really Tuyen’s skills.
Right from the get go, Tuyen established her control by landing both body kicks and head kicks in the first round and securing an early lead. Consistent body kicks would continue the narrative into the second, and while Yong attempted everything including some beautiful tornado kicks. Tuyen’s defence held up and she was able to pick Yong apart with a couple body punches in the third while the Canadian tried her best to make up the impossible difference before the final seconds of the match ticked away. The final score was 19-5 for Vietnam.
Judo kicked off with the women’s -48kg and men’s -60kg weight divisions. The men’s division concluded in a dramatic affair with neither competitor able to secure either a wazari or ippon. Leading into the golden score round (over time), it was up to Wei Yung Yang of Chinese Taipei to do something, as he found himself with two Shido’s (fouls) already. However Japan secured their first gold medal, when Naohisa Takato’s defence held up, and he proved he is the best -60kg male Judoka in the world.
Team Japan would also make an appearance in the women’s -48kg gold medal match against team Kosovo. This would take place in the form of top competitors Funa Tonaki vs. Dristria Krasniqi who brought us a hard fought match ending with a slick Uchi Mata throw for Krasniqi. This would mark the second gold medal ever for the nation, the first also coming for women’s Judo in 2016.
However, just before these finals, some of the best olympic newaza was on display in the women’s -48kg bronze medal match with Mongolian Urantsetseg Munkhbat dominating Portuegese Catarina Costa on the mat before securing a beautiful Ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (or armbar).