Majlinda Kelmendi gets revenge en route to semis in Day 2’s judo prelims

Majlinda Kelmendi

The preliminary rounds on the second day of judo featured big ippons and even bigger upsets. Read on for some of the highlights of the early rounds of men’s 66kg (145.5 lbs) and women’s 52kg (114.5 lbs) competition. Then make sure to catch the final block (repechage, semifinals and medal matches) streaming live on NBCOlympics.com at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Kelmendi looks strong, gets revenge
Majlinda Kelmendi, who is attempting to become Kosovo’s first-ever medal winner, opened her tournament in dominant fashion. The two-time world champion threw her first opponent, Switzerland’s Evelyne Tschopp, for an ippon just 25 seconds into the match. Immediately afterward, an ecstatic Kelmendi let out a loud scream.

The win advanced Kelmendi into the 52kg quarterfinals, where she faced Mauritius’ Christianne Legentil — the girl who knocked her out of the 2012 Olympics. No scores were put up by either judoka; instead, it came down to shidos. With fewer penalities assessed to her, Kelmendi was able to move on to this afternoon’s semifinals. A win there would guarantee at least a silver medal and the first medal of any kind for Kosovo.

Her semifinal opponent could present her toughest challenge of the day, as Japan’s Misato Nakamura, the three-seed in the tournament, awaits.

Upset of the day
In the men’s 66kg Round of 32, Israel’s Golan Pollack drew Zambia’s Mathews Punza as his first opponent. This one wasn’t expected to be much of a contest — in the Olympic rankings that came out on May 30, Pollack was ranked No. 8 in the world and was considered a medal contender in Rio; Punza, on the other hand, was ranked No. 112 in the world and only made it into the Olympic tournament via a continental quota allocation.

Instead, what happened on the mat stunned everyone watching. The match ended in less than a minute, with Punza quickly getting on top of Pollack and pinning the Israeli for an ippon.

Punza was ultimately defeated in the Round of 16.

Watch out for…
21-year-old Italian Fabio Basile, who was ranked No. 29 in the world at 66kg, is through to the semifinals. He’s been delivering big throws all day long, with his first three matches of the day all ending by ippon.

With all the attention coming his way, Basile knows how important it is to stay fresh: He keeps finding time to adjust his hair.

Team USA update
Despite a valiant effort in her Olympic debut, U.S. judoka Angie Delgado was unable to advance past the Round of 32.

Delgado, whose father was once a member of the Cuban judo team, scored three yukos against Mongolia’s Tsolmon Adiyasambuu, but it was not enough to overcome the Mongolian’s waza-ari.

Here’s a look at the matches coming up in today’s final block (2:30 p.m. ET; NBCOlympics.com). Rankings from the end of the Olympic qualification period are included.

Men’s 66kg semifinal matches
No. 1 An Baul (KOR) vs. No. 7 Masashi Ebinuma (JPN)
No. 29 Fabio Basile (ITA) vs. No. 32 Adrian Gomboc (SLO)

Men’s 66kg repechage matches
No. 11 Rishod Sobirov (UZB) vs. No. 60 Wander Mateo (DOM)
No. 2 Davaadorj Tumurkhuleg (MGL) vs. No. 20 Antoine Bouchard (CAN)

Women’s 52kg semfinal matches
No. 10 Odette Giuffrida (ITA) vs. No. 6 Ma Yingnan (CHN)
No. 2 Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS) vs. No. 3 Misato Nakamura (JPN)

Women’s 52kg repechage matches
No. 1 Andreea Chitu (ROU) vs. No. 4 Erika Miranda (BRA)
No. 36 Christianne Legentil (MRI) vs. No. 7 Natalia Kuziutina (RUS)

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