In less than five minutes,a judoka finishes first

For benin’s JACOB GNAHOUI,games were over almost as it began

Written by New York Times | London | Published: July 30, 2012 1:41:12 am

This is how Jacob Gnahoui spent his Olympics. For a little more than three minutes,he grappled and pulled and squirmed and strained,on his feet and on the floor and back on his feet again,and then he spent a little less than a half-minute in a smothering embrace.

And then it was over.

The day had started at 9:30 a.m.,and before it was even 9:35,the day was done. Of the thousands of athletes here,Gnahoui,a practitioner of judo,was among the first to be eliminated.

There would be many more by the end of the day,and of course there are countless more athletes who never made it to the Games,missing their chances by a few centimeters or tenths of a second,or by a quick miscalculation.

But it is different when you make it all the way here and it ends so quickly. The whiplash has to be even more powerful for Gnahoui,who less than 11 hours earlier was holding aloft the flag of his home country,Benin,and leading the country’s tiny Olympic delegation out into the delirious roar of Olympic Stadium.

“It’s normal,” he said through an interpreter in the Olympic Village on Saturday afternoon. “It’s normal for an athlete at this level,because they expect it.” This is particularly true in judo,as pitilessly efficient a sport as they come.

“Five minutes of fighting is the same as 90 minutes of soccer,” Gnahoui said.

Gnahoui,26,was born in the ancient town Allada in Benin,a small country in West Africa. He learned judo from his older brother,fighting for years in T-shirts because he did not have a traditional uniform.

Boos help turn loser to winner

Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili,20,grabbed gold in the 66kg judo category. He reached the final by stunning Japan’s Masashi Ebinuma,the world champion,who got to the last four after chaotic scenes followed his match with South Korea’s Cho Jun-Ho. That match finished scoreless and the referee first raised their blue flags to indicate Cho had won. The cacophony of boos helped force a review,which resulted in an unprecedented step of overturning the result.

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