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Harrison becomes the first person to win multiple Olympic gold medals in the women's -78kg category and joins a short list of judokas who have won more than one gold in any weight class.
Determined to clinch her second consecutive gold medal, the 26-year-old American came out with all guns blazing and was clearly the aggressor throughout the match but was ahead only by penalties with seconds to go when she managed to force Tcheumeo to submit on a hold for the match-ending ippon.
Even though the list of multiple-gold medallists in judo may be short Harrison said she firmly believed she could repeat the triumph she achieved at London 2012.
“I knew I’d worked harder than everyone and no one was going to take it away from me. Like I’ve said before, people don’t realise that it’s not just today, it’s the four years that led up to today as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drilled all of those situations, it’s thousands and thousands and thousands. I’ve fought every single girl here a million times.
“My coaches made me fight in every tournament when I was tired, when I was injured, when I didn’t want to fight. That’s the reason I won today – it’s because of them. They made me mentally tough and ready for any situation.”
Harrison refused to be drawn on what she will do next although made it clear she plans to retire. “I’m just going to live in the moment and be Olympic champion. I’m happy, I’m retiring. Two-time Olympic champion, that’s it.”
In the men’s -100kg category Lukas Krpalek (CZE) won gold by beating Azerbaijan’s Elmar Gasimov and after his victory he revealed that the memory of one of his best friends had inspired him throughout the event.
Fellow judoka Alexandr Jurecka died in a diving accident in September last year shortly after reaching the top 16 at the 2015 World Championship. Jurecka, who was 24 years old and competed in the -90kg category, had a good chance of qualifying for Rio 2016.
“I had his picture with me all the time,” Krpalek said after the victory ceremony, holding the photograph that shows his friend proudly posing in his judo outfit. “Any time anyone needed help, he was the first one who came, even if it was in the middle of the night. I was thinking about my friend the whole day, and especially in the last two matches.”