By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Thursday, August 11th, in the Carioca 2 Arena in Barra da Tijuca, Brazilian judoka (judo competitor) Mayra Aguiar rebounded from an earlier semifinals loss, to defeat Yalennis Castillo of Cuba to earn a bronze medal in the Olympics women’s judo under-78kg division. Aguiar’s trip to the podium marks the host country’s third medal overall in the 2016 Rio Olympics so far, and the second in judo.
Aguiar, who won the bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics, compared her last Olympic experience in London with this one in front of the hometown fans. “I won an Olympic medal [in London], it was magical,” expressed Aguiar. “But now, with this crowd, with this vibration and this emotion that people have, is marked in my life. I’ll carry it forever.”
Her bronze medal match against Castillo was a close fought battle with only a single point earned from a well-executed throw separating the two competitors.
Despite several late takedown attempts from Castillo, Aguiar was able to hold off the Cuban for the 1×0 victory and secure a trip to the podium. Following the match, an elated Aguiar jumped into the crowd to celebrate with family and friends.
Aguiar’s bronze medal victory was bittersweet for judo fans that longed to see a gold medal confrontation between Aguiar and her archrival, American Kayla Harrison. Unfortunately, only Harrison would make it to the gold medal match, as Aguiar lost earlier in the day to France’s Audrey Tcheumeo in the semifinals.
Tcheumeo would end up facing Harrison for the gold medal on Thursday, but would have to settle for silver after Harrison adeptly caught Tcheumeo in an armbar forcing her to submit. This was Harrison’s second gold medal coming off a gold medal winning performance in the 2012 London Games.
Aguiar’s compatriot judoka Rafaela Silva had earned Brazil’s first, and at time of writing, only gold medal, in the 57kg division on Tuesday (August 9th). And also earlier in the week, Brazilian Felipe Wu earned silver in the men’s 10m air pistol shooting competition.