1992 Olympics: Women’s +72kg

The top favourite going into the competition was China’s reigning World Champion in the Open Weight division, Zhuang Xiaoyan. She was also the reigning Asian Games champion. Her likely opponent was the 1989 World Champion from Cuba, Estela Rodriguez, whom she had fought and defeated in the 1991 World Championships.

Zhuang got past her first opponent, Sharon Lee of Great Britain, with a small score of koka from a kouchi-gari. She did better in her next match, against Immaculada Vicent of Spain, with a standing ippon-seoi-nage.

She continued her winning ways in her next match, against Eva Granicz of Hungary, whom she despatched with a drop seoi-nage for ippon.

Her semifinal match was against the Japanese upstart Yoko Sakaue who had looked impressive in the preliminary rounds. Despite being considerably smaller than her opponents, Sakaue was able to throw them for ippon.

Rather than trying to throw Sakaue with a conventional judo technique, Zhuang surprised her with morote-gari. Once on the ground, Zhuang pounced on her and managed to secure a hold-down for ippon.

On the other side of the pool was the giant Cuban Rodriguez who had a hard time with France’s Natalina Lupino in the semifinal. At one point it looked like Rodgriguez was going to be pinned for ippon but she managed to escape and eventually get the winning score to win the match. This meant the final would be a rematch of the Women’s Open Weight division at the 1991 World Championships, which was also held in Barcelona.

Perhaps incensed by her defeat by a hold-down in the semi-final, Sakaue snapped on a hold-down of her own against the much bigger Beata Maksymow of Poland to win the bronze medal. The other bronze medal was won by Natalina Lupino of France, who threw Germany’s Claudia Weber with a massive tsurikomi-goshi for ippon.

In the 1991 World Championships, Zhuang threw Rodriguez twice with kouchi-makikomi. This time though, she relied on ouchi-gari followed by a hold-down for ippon. And with that, she won the first ever Olympic judo gold medal for China. 

First, Zhuang threw Rodriguez with ouchi-gari....

... then she pinned her opponent for ippon.