Olympic Upsets: Aurelio Miguel (Seoul 1988)

Miguel won all his matches, including the final, without scoring a single koka from a throw.


Aurelio Miguel of Brazil created history in more ways than one at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Not only was he the first Brazilian to win an Olympic judo gold medal, he was the first player in Olympic history to do so without scoring a single point (back then scores included koka, yuko, waza-ari and ippon) from a throw.

Without question, the top contender was Japan’s Hitoshi Sugai, who was a double World Champion (1985 and 1987). He was the Kosei Inoue or Shohei Ono of his time: an uchimata specialist who could seemingly execute his throw from any situation. He was even known to be able to do a one-handed uchimata, which he would execute whenever he couldn’t get two hands on his opponents.

In the 1987 World Championships, he had thrown every one of his opponents with uchimata for ippon, with the exception of the Dutch player Theo Meijer, whom he only managed to throw for yuko with his uchimata.

The home favorite was the defending Olympic Champion Ha Hyung-zoo but he had lost to Sugai in the final of the 1985 World’s and did not medal in the 1987 World’s. So, he was clearly past his prime. Sugai was the one everyone expected to win.

Although Miguel had gotten a bronze at the 1987 World’s, he was a virtual unknown. He started his campaign in a very low-key way, winning his first match, against Britain’s Dennis Stewart, by a decision. His next match followed the same script. He defeated Iceland’s Bjarni Fridricksson by a decision.

His next was hardly more exciting. It went the full five minutes as well but was not decided by a hantei decision. Rather, he had managed to engineer two penalties (for a chui) on his opponent Yuri Fazi of Italy. But a win’s a win and he was through to semifinal. He won that one using the same game plan of heavy gripping and pushing and pulling, causing his opponent to incur penalties. In the end, he beat Jiri Sosna of Czechoslovakia with chui.

And with that, he was in the final of the Olympic Games, all without getting a single score. His opponent in the final was Marc Meiling of Germany, who didn’t know what to make of Miguel, whose pushing and pulling tactics utterly confused him. As expected, the penalties started accruing, and in the end, Miguel won with yet another chui victory.

See Miguel defeat Meiling to win the gold.

Miguel had five matches Seoul. Each and every one of them went to time (five full minutes). He had fought longer on the mat than any other contestant that day without scoring a single koka from a throw. But, he was the Olympic Champion, having won two of his matches by decision and three of them by chui.