CHIBA, Japan (AP) — Japan has broken its own record for gold medals at a single Olympic Games. The host nation still has nine days of competition to go.
The Japanese men's 45-36 win over Russian fencers in the final of the team épée on Friday brought up the 17th gold medal for Japan in Tokyo. A week has passed since the opening ceremony and the last medal events are on Aug. 8.
The previous Japanese record for gold medals was 16 for the original Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and the Athens Games of 2004. Since then, however, the number of events on the Olympic program has increased.
Japan's team of more than 600 Olympic athletes is its largest ever. Many of those athletes also get more opportunities these days to reach the podium in team or mixed events alongside their individual competitions.
Most of those gold medals — nine of 17 — have come in judo. Ever since judoka Naohisa Takato became the first host nation athlete atop the podium on Saturday, the Japanese martial art has been a rich source of gold. The 13-year-old skateboarder Momiji Nishiya was a popular winner and swimmer Yui Ohashi has surpassed all expectations with two wins.
The 17th gold medal saw Japan become the first Asian nation to win Olympic men’s épée team fencing by beating the Russian Olympic Committee team.
Japan was the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament, but upset top-ranked France 45-44 in the quarterfinals. In the final, Koki Kano beat second-ranked épée fencer Sergey Bida 8-3 in the last bout to seal the victory. No team from outside Europe had made the podium since Cuba at the 2000 Sydney Games.
South Korea beat China 45-42 for the bronze medal.
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