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Kayla Harrison, Mayra Aguiar advance to semifinals of women's 78kg judo

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There is an expectation that Team USA's Kayla Harrison and Brazil's Mayra Aguiar will ultimately meet in the final round of the women's 78kg competition. So far, they've done nothing to sway that line of thinking.


Harrison and Aguiar competed on separate mats in prelims but ended up having their first matches take place back-to-back.


First, Aguiar took the mat against Australia's Miranda Giambelli in the Round of 16. Less than 30 seconds into the match, Aguiar threw Giambelli to the ground for a waza-ari and immediately went into a hold-down. After pinning Giambelli for a full 15 seconds, Aguiar picked up a second waza-ari, giving her an automatic victory by ippon. Her fight lasted just 39 seconds.



Harrison was on deck as this unfolded. Her Round of 16 bout with China's Zhang Zhehui was a quick one as well – it was over in 43 seconds after Harrison completed a 20-second hold-down.


In the quarterfinals, Aguiar beat Germany's Luise Malzahn on penalties, and Harrison completed another 20-second hold-down on Hungary's Abigel Joo to advance with a second straight victory by ippon.






Both judoka will compete in the semifinals (2:30 p.m. ET; NBCOlympics.com) and are one win away battling for gold.


Harrison and Aguiar have faced each other 17 times in their career, and the all-time series is very close, with Harrison holding a 9-8 advantage. If they do indeed meet in the Gold Medal Match in Rio, it will likely be for the final time, as Harrison has stated her intention to retire from judo competition after these Olympics.


It will also be one of the most intense events of the entire Olympics in any sport so far. Brazilian fans have packed the judo venue every day and have been loud, not just in cheering their local heroes, but also in booing their opponents.



Below are other notes from the preliminary rounds of competition in the women's 78kg and men's 100kg divisions.


Ninja warrior

Aguiar's opponent in the semifinals will be a tough one: France's Audrey Tcheumeo, the world No. 2. While battling British judoka Natalie Powell in the quarterfinal round, Tcheumeo began bleeding and had to be attended to. The medical staff ended up wrapping her chin and mouth up with a bandage, then Tcheumeo returned to the mat and finished out the fight.


Tcheumeo won the bout on penalties.


The never-ending match

In the women's 78kg Round of 16, Marhinde Verkerk of the Netherlands fought Cuba's Yalennis Castillo for nearly 11 full minutes. With the match scoreless at the end of regulation, it went into a golden score period that seemingly was never going to end.


After an exhausting 6 minutes, 57 seconds of overtime, the referee finally issued a shido to Verkerk, giving Castillo the win.


Not messing around

The very first match of the day was also the shortest. In a Round of 64 match, Portugal's Jorge Fonseca threw Afghanistan's Mohammad Tawfiq Bakhshi for an ippon after just nine seconds.


Here's a look at the matches coming up in today's final block. Rankings from the end of the Olympic qualification period are included.


Women's 78kg semifinal matches

No. 1 Kayla Harrison (USA) vs. No. 6 Anamari Velensek (SLO)

No. 2 Audrey Tcheumeo (FRA) vs. No. 4 Mayra Aguiar (BRA)


Women's 78kg repechage matches

No. 11 Abigel Joo (HUN) vs. No. 20 Yalennis Castillo (CUB)

No. 8 Natalie Powell (GBR) vs. No. 7 Luise Malzahn (GER)


Men's 100kg semifinal matches

No. 1 Elmar Gasimov (AZE) vs, No. 23 Artem Bloshenko (UKR)

No. 2 Cyrille Maret (FRA) vs. No. 3 Lukas Krpalek (CZE)


Men's 100kg repechage matches

No. 9 Ramadan Darwish (EGY) vs, No. 5 Karl-Richard Frey (GER)

No. 13 Beka Gviniashvili (GEO) vs. No. 7 Ryunosuke Haga (JPN)



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