Jimmy Pedro had lost his chance for an Olympic medal half an hour before, but the crushing finality did not hit until now. Pedro was doing an interview when the Italian national anthem began to play, and a huge screen showed a tearful Giuseppe Maddaloni stepping forward to accept the gold medal in judo.
Pedro was favored to win the United States' first Olympic gold medal in judo. At the very least, Pedro was expected to repeat his bronze performance in Atlanta four years ago and become the United States' first double medalist in the sport.
Instead, Pedro will go back to Lawrence, Mass., with no medals and a bitter memory. After being knocked out of the gold-medal round earlier in the day, Pedro, the defending world lightweight champion at 73 kilograms (160.6 pounds), lost the bronze-medal match tonight to Anatoly Laryukov of Belarus.
''This is devastating,'' Pedro said. ''I was thinking for sure I would win the bronze, I would still make history -- the first double medal winner in judo. But that's just the nature of the sport. Anyone can catch anyone on a given day.''
Pedro lost his chance for the gold in his first match, against Choi Yong Sin of South Korea, when he was penalized for an illegal grip with 46 seconds left in the five-minute encounter. Although he was able to recover from the loss and reach the bronze-medal match, Pedro said he wasn't himself.
''I didn't feel right all day,'' he said. ''I felt sluggish. My trademark is that I never get tired; I am able to pressure and wear down my opponent and make him crack. In my first match I was never able to do that. I don't know if it was anxiety or what. I didn't feel good until my third match.''
After the opening loss and the lackluster victory in his first repechage -- or second chance -- Pedro stormed through his next matches like the world champion he is. He threw Michel Almeida of Portugal to earn his way into the bronze-medal match. The match with Laryukov, who finished seventh in the world championships, was supposed to be perfunctory.
But 31 seconds into the match Laryukov, who celebrates his 30th birthday next month two days before Pedro turns 30, caught Pedro off guard and threw him on his back for an ippon, the move that ends a match.
Pedro's coach, Steve Cohen, was stunned. ''It just wasn't meant to be,'' he said. ''Jimmy was fresh, the other fighter had just fought, he was tired. He never gets thrown like that. Never. I don't know what to say. It wasn't meant to be. I think he could have come into this competition and fought at 90 percent and won. Today he was 80 percent; that wasn't good enough.''
In those 31 seconds, the dream nurtured by Pedro and Cohen for 12 years ended. Cohen first met Pedro in 1988, when Cohen was preparing for the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Pedro was a member of the junior team.
Cohen said when he was offered an opportunity to coach the United States judo team, the determining factor was having the chance to coach Pedro.
''I wanted the opportunity to coach a world champion and an Olympic champion,'' Cohen said. ''When Jimmy won the world championship was the highlight of my life.''
Cohen added: ''I've known Jimmy for a long time. One of the experiences I have not had is dealing with him as a loser; he doesn't lose much. I don't know what the answer is. I'm very proud of him. He's the best we've ever had. He could not have trained harder, prepared better or wanted it more.''
Pedro said: ''I just have to reflect on something my dad told me. He said, 'You had a hell of a career -- three medals, a world championship, an Olympic medal.' ''
Pedro said he would retire from the sport in December after fulfilling a commitment for a local team. The bitter taste of this Olympic loss will not tempt him back as a competitor.
''It's been harder and harder to leave home,'' he said. ''I have two boys and a 4-year-old daughter. It's time to stop. I've never taken time off, never contemplated retirement before.''
Pedro was reflective after tonight's defeat.
''I gave it my all, I did all the right things,'' he said. ''I have no regrets. I gave it my all. Today my all wasn't good enough.''
Source Citation:Rhoden, William C. "A world champion is thrown for a loss." The New York Times (Sept 19, 2000 s0 pS2(N) pS2(L) col 6 (35 col): S2(L). Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 11 Oct. 2009
United States Judo Association - USJA
(Album / Profile) hhref="http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10023&id=1661531726&l=792eaa11b1">http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10023&id=1661531726&l=792eaa11b1