The Yomiuri Shimbun RIO DE JANEIRO — Junko Hirose, 25, became the first Japanese female athlete to win a medal in women’s judo at the Paralympic Games, earning a bronze by winning the third-place match on Friday in the 57-kilogram class of the event for the visually impaired in Rio de Janeiro.
Aramitsu Kitazono, 25, finished fifth in the 73-kilogram class in men’s judo.
Meanwhile, Kyosuke Oyama, 28, finished fifth in the men’s swimming 50-meter butterfly event for athletes with mobility disabilities.
Boost for Paralympic judo
Junko Hirose captured bronze with a dramatic ippon victory against her Spanish opponent in the third-place match. Her achievement was remarkable in that it came at her first major competition.
Her husband, Haruka Hirose, an athlete competing in the 90-kilogram class of men’s judo, cheered her throughout the match and held her in an embrace after the medal ceremony.
Women’s judo became a Paralympic event at the 2004 Athens Games. Hirose is the first Japanese woman to win a medal in the event.
“I expect that this will contribute to the [expansion] of women’s judo for people who are visually impaired,” she said.
The number of athletes competing in women’s judo for the visually impaired is extremely small.
According to Isoya Inoue, the head coach of the women’s judo team, even in national events, female participants in women’s judo for the visually impaired number only about 10 in all weight classes.
People involved in the sport expect that her medal will help increase the number of women athletes competing in the sport ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.