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Wednesday, 23 May 2012 22:51

Judo: A Short History of Judo at the Olympics

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By Patrick Hattman | Yahoo! Contributor Network

HISTORY

After much lobbying by Japan, the sport's country of origin, judo was slated for inclusion as an Olympic event at the 1940 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, World War II intervened, forcing the cancellation of all Olympic Games until 1948. Japan's Olympic judo dream was not achieved for many more years.

With the selection of Tokyo as the host city of the 1964 Olympics, Japan exercised its right to pick a sport to showcase to the world and decided on judo. The competition was only for men and four weight classes were planned.

OLYMPIC JUDO: MEN

Japan had dominated judo at international tournaments since they were resumed in the 1950s. Most Japanese expected a clean sweep of the four golds. The first three finals went according to expectations, with Japanese judoka emerging victorious each time.

However, in the open weight class, Japan's Akio Kaminaga had to face Dutch giant Anton Geesink. (Geesink had dominated all Japanese opposition at the 1961 World Championships.) Geesink controlled the bout from the start and did not take long to pin Kaminaga to the tatami, much to the chagrin of tens of millions of Japanese. Geesink's win proved without a doubt that non-Japanese were capable of great judo.

Judo was a victim of scheduling at the 1968 Olympics, but was reinstated for the 1972 Olympics and has been contested every four years since. The number of weight classes has ranged from six to eight. The judo in 1972 in Munich is most notable for the performance of Dutchman Willem Ruska, who captured both the heavyweight and open category golds.

But the cumulative performance of Japan's men has easily been the best since 1964, surpassing all other nations with 41 medals. A couple of the top judoka for Japan include Yasuhiro Yamashita and Tadahiro Nomura. Yamashita won gold in 1984 in Los Angeles and appears to have been undefeated in his international career with 203 victories against just 7 draws. Nomura earned three consecutive Olympic golds between 1996-2004 in the under-60 kilogram class, the only man ever to do so.

OLYMPIC JUDO: WOMEN

Women first competed in Olympic judo in 1988 as part of a demonstration sport, with their sport getting full-fledged medal status in 1992. Japanese women have done extremely well by winning 24 medals, far more than any rival nation.

Chinese women, though, won the most golds in Beijing in 2008 with Xian Dongmei, Yang Xiuli and Tong Wen all earning Olympic titles. It will be interesting to see if they can surpass the Japanese again in London, especially without home advantage this time.

The cream of the crop for Japan over the past two decades includes Ryoko Tani(nee Tamura) and Masae Ueno. Tani, competing in the under-48 kilogram class, won five Olympic medals, including two golds, to go along with seven World Championships golds. For her part, Ueno was nearly unbeatable for a decade in international tournaments, including a pair of Olympic gold medals.

Patrick Hattman lived in Japan for more than a decade and continues to closely follow the country's best athletes and team sports.

Article source: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/short-history-judo-olympics-212200370--oly.html

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