LONDON – At the end, Travis Stevens looked as if he’d been in a car wreck.
Blood spotted his face. A trainer had wound white tape around his fingers and wrist, adding a strip across the cuts over his left eye.
“Devastated” was the word Stevens used to describe the disappointment.
“My grandfather died last year,” he said. “And this pretty much feels the same way.”
Everything the American judoka had accomplished Tuesday – roaring through the early rounds of the 81-kilogram division – had dissolved into a pair of late losses that kept him off the podium at the 2012 London Olympics.
A medal would have added to the surprising tale of a U.S. judo team that won bronze (Oak Harbor native Marti Malloy) in the women’s 57-kilogram division the day before.
But the record book will show that Stevens, a Tacoma native who graduated from Auburn Riverside High School, fell short with a loss to Antoine Valois-Fortier of Canada in the bronze-medal match. And that he dropped an even more important contest before that.
The semifinals had him pitted against Ole Bischof, a familiar rival from Germany. The two men thundered at each other, Stevens suffering those two cuts.
Their match ended in a scoreless tie, and Stevens – along with many in the ExCeL hall – expected he would get the judges’ decision.
“I thought I’d done enough,” he said. “I thought I’d won.”
Officials picked Bischof, and U.S. coach Jimmy Pedro could not hide his anger, saying: “Nine out of 10 times, Travis wins that match. The German coach apologized to me afterward.”
Bischof ended up losing to Kim Jae-Bum of South Korea in the final.
When it came time for Stevens to fight for the bronze, he appeared physically and emotionally spent.
He and Valois-Fortier frequently train together, with Stevens usually coming out on top. This time, however, the Canadian took an early lead.
“I knew the first guy who scored a point on the board would control the other’s attack,” Valois-Fortier said. “So when I scored, I was telling myself, ‘I can do this.’ ”
After the final seconds ticked away, Stevens crumpled to the mat, distraught.
Said his coach: “Sometimes to be an Olympic champion, you have to be a little lucky. And to not reach the podium, you are a little unlucky.”
Urska Zolnir of Slovenia won the 63-kilogram title, defeating Xu Lili of China. Zolnir managed to throw Xu once in the match’s first minute, which was ultimately enough to win.
At 31, Zolnir was one of the oldest competitors in the division.
“You will not meet me in Rio,” she predicted.
The bronze medals were won by Yoshie Ueno of Japan and Gevrise Emane of France.The Associated Press contributed to this report.