(Updates with quotes)
By Michael Holden
LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Judoka Kaori Matsumoto won Japan’s first gold of the London Games on Monday, confessing she had been forced to give up eating ice cream to become champion.
Matsumoto, 24, the world number one, who had been fast, aggressive and determined throughout the tournament, won the final of the women’s -57kg category when Corina Caprioriu of Romania was penalised for a leg grab.
It was the first medal Japan’s highly-fancied women’s judo team had won, after disappointment for both Tomoko Fukumi and Misato Nakamura who had been favourites for gold in lower weight classes.
Matsumoto, who beat Italian Giulia Quintavalle, the reigning champion, in the quarter-final before overcoming France’s Automne Pavia in the semis, admitted she had felt under pressure to do well and had been relieved to win.
“Fukumi knew that this was my first time here in the Olympics so told me to go for it and Nakamura told me ‘You’re going to get the first gold medal for us’,” she told reporters.
It was not just the skill and ability of her rivals that could have got in her way though. Smiling, she admitted her weakness for unhealthy food could have been her undoing.
“I like to eat, especially snacks and ice cream,” she said.
“Before, there was a time when I ate too much, so I was told by the coach not to eat any of the snacks and ice cream, so that was really hard for me.”
Japan traditionally dominate judo at the Olympics but their women have underperformed so far.
Caprioriu, the 26-year-old sixth seed, accepted that she had made a mistake.
“I’m not too disappointed nonetheless, because I’ve still won a silver medal, and that’s a big thing for me.”
She had reached the final by beating in the last four with an automatic winning ippon, throwing her to the mat with just seconds left.
Pavia and the American Marti Malloy won bronze. (Editing by Kevin Liffey)