Menezes Beats Defending Champion to Earn Historic Medal in Judo

London Olympics 2012

Sara Menezes has claimed the first medal for a Latina at the 2012 Olympic Games… And, she’s done it in fine-fashion, winning the gold in the 106-pound weight class in Women’s Judo.

Following a shaky start in the preliminary rounds at the London Games on Saturday, the 22-year-old Brazilian judoka returned to fine form in the final fight of the women’s 48-kilogram category to defeat defending Olympic champion Alina Dumitru in a cagey final.

Sarah Menezes

Menezes, who kept her guard up like a boxer avoiding jabs throughout the match, managed to throw Dumitru twice in the last minutes for a convincing win.

“I’m exceedingly happy,” said Menezes, who placed 19th at the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing. “I hoped and prayed for this medal and I got it at 22.”

Sarah Menezes

With the victory, Menezes becomes the first Brazilian woman to win an Olympic judo gold.

But she wasn’t the only Brazilian fighter to earn a medal in judo…

In the Men’s Judo: 60-Kilogram division, the bronze medals were won by Brazilian fighter Felipe Kitadai and Uzbekistan’s Rishod Sobirov.

Before each match, Kitadai touched the tatami before touching his judo uniform. He said he always thinks of the five rings when he dreams of the Olympics.

“I touch the rings (on the mat) as if to touch my dream with my hand,” he said. “It isn’t just technique that wins judo.”