Judo is always a must-watch event at the Olympics, but this was particularly true in Tokyo.
Japan is the sport's birthplace, and numerous Japanese judokas had the chance to win Olympic gold on their home soil this summer. While family and friends were not permitted to attend the Olympics due to COVID-19 restrictions, winning a judo title at the legendary Nippon Budokan was enough to make dreams come to life.
There were countless intriguing storylines from the judo competition in Tokyo, but several stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Brother-Sister Duo Win Gold
It's not every day that a brother and sister both win gold medals at the same Olympics.
In fact, it's never happened.
Abe Uta and Abe Hifumi became the first brother-sister duo ever to both win golds at the same Olympics, and they did so in their home country to make the achievement that much sweeter.
It was Uta who earned gold first, defeating Amandine Buchard of France to win judo gold in the women's -52 kg weight class. Brother Hifumi followed her lead soon thereafter, beating Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia to win judo gold in the men's -66 kg division.
Hifumi, 23, and Uta, 21, were both making their Olympic debuts, and it's safe to say they couldn't have possibly gone much better.
Japan Has Record-Setting Gold Medal Count
Abe Uta and Abe Hifumi weren't the only Japanese judokas to win gold in Tokyo. They were just the tip of the iceberg.
In total, nine natives of Japan earned gold medals for the host country, which is an Olympic judo record. The previous record was eight golds, also set by Japan during the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Naohisa Takato was the first Japanese judoka to earn his country a gold. The Abes soon followed his lead, as did Shohei Ono, Takanori Nagase, Chizuru Arai, Shori Hamada, Aaron Wolf and Sone Akira.
Japan normally performs well during Olympic judo competition, but their gold rush in Tokyo was an unprecedented display of dominance.
Cancer Survivor Wins Medal
As impressive as Japan's gold rush was, it's fair to assume no Olympian was as proud to take home a medal as Jorge Fonseca.
Fonseca, a 28-year-old judoka out of Portugal, wasn't sure if he'd even make it to Tokyo.
One year before the Rio Olympics in 2016, a malignant tumor was found in Fonseca's leg. Soon after, he was diagnosed with lymphoma — a form of cancer that impacts the lymphatic system.
Fonseca was eventually healthy enough to compete in Rio, but couldn't win a medal fresh off of intense cancer treatments.
His luck was much different in Tokyo, though. He defeated Canada's Shady El Nahas to win bronze in the men's -100 kg weight class, achieving a goal that many may not have thought would be possible five years ago.
Lukas Krpalek Wins Gold In New Weight Class
The Czech Republic's Lukas Krpalek was already a world-renowned judoka going into Tokyo. He won a gold medal in Rio in the men's -100 kg weight class after all.
But he put his versatility on full display in Japan, winning another judo gold medal in a completely different weight class.
In the men's +100 kg division, Krpalek took down Guram Tushishvili of Georgia to become a double Olympic champion.
His reaction to becoming a double gold medalist was as special as the feat itself.
First-Ever Mixed Team Champions
The mixed team event was brand new to judo at the Olympics. As opposed to countries having individual judokas compete for medals, they formed teams in which points and wins were earned collectively. The team with the most wins, of course, would be victorious in the overall bout.
Japan unsurprisingly advanced all the way to the gold medal bout, but it was France who ended up taking home the first-ever mixed team gold. With a roster highlighted by all-world judoka Teddy Riner, the French took down Japan by a score of 4-1.
The mixed team event was unlike anything fans of Olympic judo have seen before, but it's safe to say that it wound up being a smashing success.
Final Medal Count
Japan (12): Naohisa Takato, Abe Uta, Abe Hifumi, Shohei Ono, Takanori Nagase, Chizuru Arai, Shori Hamada, Aaron Wolf, Sone Akira, Tsukasa Yoshida, Mixed team
France (8): Luka Mkheidze, Clarisse Agbegnenou, Romane Dicko, Teddy Riner
Georgia (4): Lasha Bekauri, Guram Tushishvili, Vazha Margvelashvili, Lasha Shavdatuashvili
Germany (3): Anna-Maria Wagner, Eduard Trippel, Mixed team
Mongolia (3): Munkhbat Urantsetseg, Tsendochir Tsogtbaatar, Saeid Mollaei
South Korea (3): An Ba-ul, An Chang-rim, Cho Gu-ham
ROC (3): Madina Taimazova, Niiaz Iliasov, Tamerlan Bashaev
Kosovo (2): Distria Krasniqi, Nora Gjakova
Austria (2): Shamil Borchashvili, Michaela Polleres
Brazil (2): Daniel Cargnin, Mayra Aguiar
Canada (2): Jessica Klimkait, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard
Italy (2): Odette Giuffrida, Maria Centracchio
Czech Republic (1): Lukas Krpalek
Chinese Taipei (1): Yang Yung-wei
Cuba (1): Idalys Ortiz
Slovenia (1): Tina Trstenjak
Azerbaijan (1): Iryna Kindzerska
Belgium (1): Matthias Casse
Great Britain (1): Chelsie Giles
Hungary (1): Krisztian Toth
Israel (1): Mixed team
Kazakhstan (1): Yeldos Smetov
Netherlands (1): Sanne van Dijke
Portugal (1): Jorge Fonseca
Ukraine (1): Daria Bilodid
Uzbekistan (1): Davlat Bobonov