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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and France advanced to the final of the first mixed judo team event at the Olympics on Saturday, with three male and three female judokas joining forces for a final showdown at the Tokyo Games.
The new event means a 15th judo gold medal is on offer, on top of the seven weight categories each for men and women. Women in the -57 kg, -70 kg, +70 kg weight classes and men in the -73 kg, -90 kg and +90 kg weights each face off one by one in the team event.
Japan has won nine gold medals so far in the judo in Tokyo - a record since it became an Olympic event for men in 1964 and for women in 1992.
In the finals, scheduled from 0800 GMT, Japan will face France while Germany, Israel, Netherlands and the Russia Olympic Committee will compete for two bronze medals.
In the team event quarter-finals, Japan got off to a shaky start when Uta Abe and Shohei Ono, both individual gold medallists already in Tokyo, lost to Germany's Theresa Stoll and Igor Wandtke. But Japan's four other judokas beat their German opponents to win 4-2.
The Japanese team handily beat the Russian Olympic Committee 4-0 in the semi-finals, capped by a shoulder drop ippon by Akira Sone, also a Tokyo gold medallist.
France squeezed past Israel in the quarter-finals 4-3, with the help of heavyweight legend Teddy Riner, who gave Israel's Or Sasson a combination of two waza-aris -- a floating throw and a straddle hold -- to make it an ippon win.
The French then powered through their semi-final against the Netherlands.
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Hugh Lawson)