LONDON – Sarah Menezes provided the perfect start for Brazil at the London Games, becoming the first Brazilian woman to win Olympic gold in judo.
Menezes, 22, defeated defending Olympic champion Alina Dumitru of Romania in the final of the 48-kilogram category to cap an amazing four-year turnaround after she placed 19th at the Beijing Games.
“I’m exceedingly happy,” Menezes told reporters. “I hoped and prayed for this medal and I got it at 22.”
Menezes, a native of Teresina in the state of Piauí, got off to a slow start in the tournament, as she scored a series of narrow wins in the preliminaries.
But she got stronger as the tournament progressed. In the final, Menezes and Dumitru were locked in a tight bout, as neither could gain an advantage, with Menezes using her hands to deflect Dumitru’s punches.
Menezes, however, countered in the final minutes, throwing Dumitru to the ground twice to win the match.
The women's bronze medals went to Hungarian Eva Csernoviczki and Charline van Snick of Belgium.
Brazil’s Thiago Pereira wins silver in 400-meter individual medley
Thiago Pereira will leave his third Olympics with a medal after coming close in 2004 and 2008.
The 26-year-old native of Volta Redondo in the state of Rio de Janeiro placed second in the 400-meter individual medley, finishing behind champion Ryan Lochte of the United States and ahead of Japan’s Kosuke Hagino.
Pereira also defeated American Michael Phelps, who placed fourth in 4:09.28 after winning the event in Beijing in 2008 in a world record time of 4:03.84.
Lochte won race in 4:05.18, followed by Pereira in 4:08.86 and Hagino in 4:08.94.
The victory was sweet for Pereira, who had placed fifth in the 200-meter individual medley in Athens in 2004 and fourth in the event in Beijing.
Prior to stepping onto the medal pedestal in London, Pereira had won a Brazilian record 12 gold medals at the Pan American Games.