Japanese judokas take center stage at Budokan in Olympics

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Japan topped the medal table again with three golds and 12 total, reasserting itself as the sport’s dominant team behind fearsome lightweight Shohei Ono after a relatively poor performance at the London Games. … French heavyweight Teddy Riner won his second gold medal in his typically dominant fashion. … Kayla Harrison earned her second gold for the U.S. before moving on to mixed martial arts.

WHAT’S NEW: The mixed team event makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo on the final day of the tournament. Twelve nations will send three men and three women drawn from the main competition to compete in six individual matches.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Japan’s powerhouse team is under enormous pressure at home in the Nippon Budokan, the spiritual home of martial arts. The arena was built for judo’s introduction to the Olympics at the first Tokyo Games in 1964. … Japan’s team is extraordinarily talented, as befitting a nation with as many judo gold medals (39) as the next four teams combined. Its fans are expecting another big haul. … Every heavyweight is gunning for Riner, who has showed vulnerability with two losses in the past year after an unbeaten decade. … The women’s 78 kg division is open again after Harrison’s departure. Germany’s Anna-Maria Wagner was the surprise world champion in June, but Japan’s Shori Hamada and France’s Madeleine Malonga are elite contenders.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Japanese siblings Hifumi and Uta Abe are both strong contenders for gold. … French four-time world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou will try to get her first Olympic gold. … Ukraine‚Äôs Daria Bilodid is only 20 years old, but she’s a two-time world champion at extra-lightweight. … Exciting Georgia-born Spanish middleweight Nikoloz Sherazadishvili won his second world championship in June.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: July 24: women’s 48 kg, men’s 60 kg; July 25: women’s 52 kg, men’s 66 kg; July 26: women’s 57 kg, men’s 73 kg; July 27: women’s 63 kg, men’s 81 kg; July 28: women’s 70 kg, men’s 90 kg; July 29: women’s 78 kg, men’s 100 kg; July 30: women’s women’s +78 kg, men’s +100 kg; July 31: mixed team.

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympicsand https://twitter.com/AP_Sports