Nomura had judo in the blood. His father had coached the 1984 Olympic champions Shinji Hosokawa, while his uncle Toyokazu Nomura won an Olympic judo gold in 1972. He had taken up the sport when he was six years old and had won his first Olympic gold at the age of 21.
The Games seemed to bring out the very best in Nomura. He had not won a world title since 1997 and had placed only third at the latest edition of the Worlds in 2003, prompting suggestions that his career may have started a decline. But his victory in the all-Japan National Championships (the fifth time he had won the title) not only confirmed Nomura’s place in the Olympic team but also inspired renewed confidence in his enduring ability.
His greatest challenge was expected to come from Great Britain's Craig Fallon, but he was a surprise casualty during the pool stage. Nomura, by contrast, had brought his best form with him to Athens. After cruising through the early rounds, he needed just 14 seconds to win his quarter-final against Argentina's Miguel Albarracín, and then beat his semi-final opponent Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar of Mongolia in only 23 seconds.
The final proved a much tougher affair. His opponent was Georgia's Nest'or Khergiani, who like Nomura was 29 and had plenty of experience. The two men were clearly wary of each other and the five-minute bout elapsed without any points being awarded for technique. Instead, Nomura won by waza-ari on cautions; it was a narrow victory, but still enough to earn him that record-breaking third consecutive gold medal. It was also Japan's 100th Olympic gold medal.
Nomura then disappeared from view, before making a surprise comeback, announcing his intention to try and qualify for the 2008 Games. And while he won the all-Japan title for the sixth time, but then lost in the semi-final of the Olympic qualifying tournament. A day later, he announced his retirement from the sport.