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Fortune turns for Anno with gold

8/19/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Japan's Noriko Anno ended a run of
frustrating Olympic finishes by taking the gold medal Thursday in
the 78-kilogram class of judo.

In the men's division, Ihar Makarau of Belarus beat Jang Sung-ho
of South Korea to win the gold in the 100-kilogram class after
Japan's Kosei Inoue, the defending Olympic champion and three-time
world champion, lost in the quarterfinals, his first defeat in
major international competition in four years.

Anno has taken four world championships in two different weight
classes, but lost in the first round at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
This time, she cruised into the final and beat Liu Xia of China.

It was Japan's sixth gold medal in 12 judo classes, with one
more day left in the competition.

"I was very nervous before the Olympic Games because I wanted
this medal. After my first victory in the tournament, I felt much
better," Anno said. "Now, I'm feeling fantastic."

Lucia Morico of Italy and Yurisel Laborde of Cuba shared the
bronze.

Inoue has been called one of the best ever and was a heavy
favorite in his class. In the quarterfinals, Elco Van Der Geest of
the Netherlands beat him in the final 12 seconds.

Nicolas Gill, who carried Canada's flag in the opening ceremony,
lost in the first round and was considering retirement.

"I don't think I will continue to fight because it's obvious
that I'm getting older," the 32-year-old Gill said.