Canada's Sasha Mehmedovic had hoped to finish some unfinished business at the Olympics, but it didn't happen that way Sunday in London.
The judoka from Toronto came one point shy of making the medal round at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Devastated four years ago, breaking down in tears, he had vowed that day to try again.
The 27-year-old started the day strong in London in the -66-kilogram weight class, defeating Carlos Figueroa of El Salvador in the preliminary round. But then Mehmedovic's tournament was ended in round two by top Japanese fighter Ebinuma Masashi, who triumphed with an Uchi-mata for Ippon.
"This was my second Olympics and I expected a better result than last time," said Mehmedovic. "But that Japanese guy is a 2011 world champion, and although I fought him before and I was prepared, this time he was really on the ball."
Mehmedovic explained that some recent rule-changes over the past few years in the sport have taken some of the leg grabs and throws that were his greatest strength. It's hard to fight someone like his Japanese opponent, who has other strengths and never relied on those techniques that have since been removed.
"This is the challenge of fighting one of the best players in the world," said coach Nicolas Gill, himself a two-time Olympic medalist. "The Japanese was just too quick and too strong to stop."
His family immigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia when he was eight and settled in Toronto, where his father became a judo instructor and started the boy in the sport. Now a 27-year-old veteran in his second Olympics, the Concordia University student said he may consider coaching and is pursuing a physical education degree.
With his parents wearing Canada t-shirts and clicking photos in the stands, Mehmedovic finished the day flat on his back on the mat, then face-down to take a moment to accept that his Olympics are over. The judoka said he was at peace with the result. It didn't seem to stab as much as being one point shy of competing for a medal had.
"The first games in 2008, I was a hair away from the medal round and I was so crushed. I didn't go as deep into the draw this time, so it just feels different. I don't feel as devastated," said Mehmedovic. "To be honest, I don't know what will happen. This might have been my last Olympics, so there is nothing to do now than think about the future."