Ze'evi's medal quest ends early

Judo star fails to repeat heroics of four years ago, despite vocal Israeli crowd support.

zeevi loser 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
zeevi loser 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
So many hopes and expectations were placed on the shoulders of Arik Ze'evi ahead of Thursday's under-100 kilogram judo competition - and it showed as he didn't come close to winning a coveted medal. The bronze medalist from the Athens Games looked slow and heavy even in the one fight he won and admitted afterwards that he hasn't performed this badly in a decade. "I wasn't ready for the pressure and I guess it was just all too much. This is the first time something like this has happened to me," said a teary-eyed Ze'evi, who admitted to have cried for an hour after being knocked out. The 31-year-old began the day with an unconvincing victory over former world champion and Olympic medalist, Frenchman Frederic Demontfaucon, and in the next round found himself out of his depth against European champion and eventual bronze medalist Henk Grol. The several dozen Israeli fans, who made the trip to Beijing's Science and Technology University Gymnasium, did all they could to wake-up the drowsy Ze'evi, but a focused Grol neutralized the Israeli and eventually won by a Choi. After the Dutchman advanced to the semifinals, Ze'evi got a second chance he didn't really deserve. The next fight, however, would be Ze'evi's last ever at the Olympic Games after world champion Luciano Correa got the better of him with a Yuko in the final minute of the bout. "I wasn't myself," said an inconsolable Ze'evi. "I felt very tired and I also didn't feel very confident ahead of the Olympics. "I don't think I should have tried to lower the expectations before the Games. I believe in always saying that I'm aiming for first place." At 31, Ze'evi is nearing the end of his illustrious sporting career, but he said on Thursday that he doesn't think he has fought his last fight. "I can't see myself retiring after such a competition," Ze'evi said. "I hoped to win a medal here and at next year's World Championships and then retire, but I'll have to now take a time-out for a couple of weeks before deciding on my next move," added Ze'evi, who is getting married in four weeks. "It's not easy to continue to fight at my age and at the moment I don't feel I'm good enough to continue. I had said that after missing two World Championships in the past I want to compete in next year's event, but I'm not willing to guarantee anything at the moment."