Olympics-Judo-Judoka Takato wins Japan's first Tokyo 2020 gold

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Women's 48kg - Semifinal - Nippon Budokan - Tokyo, Japan - July 24, 2021. Funa Tonaki of Japan reacts REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

TOKYO (Reuters) -Naohisa Takato won the final of the men's 60kg judo to give host nation Japan their first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, defeating Yang Yung-wei of Taiwan in the final.

Takato's victory underscored Japan's strength at a sport that originated in the country. Bronze medals went to Yeldos Smetov of Kazakhstan and Luka Mkheidze of France.

The dramatic victory that left Takato in tears stood in contrast to the lack of fans at an empty arena at the Nippon Budokan, a mecca of Japanese martial arts and concert venues.

Japanese female judoka Funa Tonaki reached the final in her 48kg class but lost to Kosovo's Distria Krasniqi.

Tonaki, a one-time world champion making her Olympic debut, won a nailbiting semi-final with an ippon - judo's equivalent of a knockout - by pinning Ukraine's Daria Bilodid in Golden Score overtime.

Japan's triple world champion Takato, a bronze medallist at the Rio 2016 Games, had a close shave in his quarter-final in the 60kg class, winning during Golden Score overtime on a foul by his Georgian opponent Lukhumi Chkhvimiani.

In the elimination round of 16, Takato had delivered an ippon against Belgian Jorre Verstaeten.

Tonaki, 25, had earlier defeated Paula Pareto of Argentina and Hungary's Eva Csernoviczki.

In between matches at the eight-sided Nippon Budokan, which was built for the Olympics Japan hosted in 1964, sanitation workers poured disinfectant spray over yellow tatami mats to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection.

Blaring pop, rock and dance music was used to generate an atmosphere before the bouts.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; editing by John Stonestreet and Ken Ferris)

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