Gymnast Kohei Uchimura is probably the most recognizable Japanese athlete at the 2012 Olympic Games, and he is the one Japan is counting on to bring home many medals. However, a less well-known competitor—an Olympic rookie—gave the country its first gold: 57kg division judoka Kaori Matsumoto. I didn’t know much about her (or judo) so I decided to look up some information and share it.
Name: Kaori Matsumoto
Name in Kanji: 松本薫
Date of birth: September 11, 1987
Hometown: Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan
Sport: Judo, lightweight (57kg) division
Notable results: 2010 Asian Games gold medalist, 2010 World Champion, 2011 World Championships bronze medalist, 2012 Summer Olympics gold medalist
Kaori Matsumoto started judo at the age of six because her brother and her sister were doing it as well. Her first major victory came in 2005 at the EJU A-Tournament Under-20 competition in Berlin. In 2008, she won the Asian Judo Championships.
Since then, she’s consistently had podium finishes (with only one fifth place in the 2009 World Championships). She has won the Asian Games, the World Championships, and the All-Japan Judo Championships.
At the Olympics, Matsumoto took the gold when her opponent, Corina Caprioriu of Romania, was disqualified for an illegal move. It was a huge triumph for the Japanese team, which hadn’t been meeting its high expectations in previous judo matches. The London Olympics was her last match. The Teikyo University student plans on becoming a judo coach or a pastry chef.
Listening to: “Hysteric Barbie” by Aya Hirano