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Thursday, August 19, 2004
Fortune turns for Anno with gold

Associated Press

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.