Image titleHaruki Uemura - Japan

Kodokan President Haruki Uemura has reached the summit of our sport as a judoka and an educator. Uemura won the All Japan Championships in 1973 which earned him a berth at the World Championships in the same year where he earned a silver medal. Two years later he achieved a masterful double as he won the All Japan Championships and World Championsips with a year to go until the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Japan led from the front in Canada as Uemura was one of his country’s three gold medallists.

Following his distinguished career, the Kumamoto native served as President of the All Japan Judo Federation and a board member of the IJF. Today, Uemura leads the sport’s true home of the Kodokan in Tokyo in every sense of the word, as a teacher, spokesman, motivator and judoka of the highest regard.


Yasuhiro Yamashita - JapanImage title

Yasuhiro Yamashita will forever be associated with greatness. Yamashita possessed a will to win and a skillset which was unparalleled as he won 203 consecutive matches between 1977 and 1985. During that time the Tokai University talisman won four World Championships and gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Off the tatami, Yamashita is an unassuming, modest figure who, having refuted lucarative overtures outside of judo after his competitive career, retained all his desire for judo excellence and is a regular instructor for Tokai’s current crop of athletes as well as a source of inspiration for recreational and competitive judoka the world around.

Yamashita, who, as manager of the Japanese team, was seen cleaning up the warm up area at the 1996 Olympic Games, now serves as the vice-president of the All Japan Judo Federation.

Yamashita once said: “If they could see on my face what I feel in my heart, no one would ever fight me.”


Ki-Young Jeon – South KoreaImage title

South Korean hero Ki-Young Jeon mastered his craft and won the hearts of his nation who regard him as their greatest champion. Ki-Young was an unstoppable force in the 90s as he won three consecutive World Championships (1993, 1995, 1997) and ruled the world on the greatest stage of all, the Olympic Games, in Atlanta in 1996.

With his nation expectant and all eyes fixed on the favourite, Ki-Young was at his precocious best, winning all his fights by ippon with the exception of his opening contest against the Dutchman Mark Huizinga who went on to rule the category after his conqueror retired. Ki-Young called time on his fighting days in 1997 as the reigning world champion and since then has worked with the national teams of Singapore and South Korea as well as being a sought after guest coach in every continent.

Ki-Young is now a Professor at the acclaimed Yong-In University in South Korea and in July joined the IJF as a member of the Sports Commission.


Shota Chochishvili - GeorgiaImage title

Shota Chochishvili fought for the former Soviet Union and at the age of 22 was crowned Olympic champion at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Hailing from Ghvlevi in the K’arelis Raioni region – which today is part of Georgia – Chochishvili was an unknown when he entered his first Games, lacking experience of top level competition and the high-profile stage, but 1972 changed everything as he unceremoniously eliminated the top names in the category one-by-one until he surpassed David Starbook of Britain in the final.

Chochishvili followed up by winning three consecutive European Championships silver medals and one world bronze medal before returning to the Olympic stage in 1976. After returning to the Olympic podium with a bronze medal and a European bronze a year later, Chochishvili, whose image was proudly on show at the 2015 Tbilisi Grand Prix, announced his retirement. Ramaz Chochishvili continued the legacy of his father as he won three European bronze medals as a member of the Georgian team.

Shota Chochishvili passed away at the age of 59 on August 27, 2009 from leukaemia. His son Ramaz Chochishvili, pictured, collected the hall of fame award on his father’s behalf.


Dr Karen Briggs MBE – BritainImage title

Dubbed a ‘pocket-sized’ fighting machine in the British media, Hull-born Karen Briggs was equally adept on her feet and on the ground. Briggs, who won four World Championships in the 1980s, was crowned world champion for the first time in 1982 at the age of 18. The all-action fighter moulded herself into an all-time great as she successfully defended her world title in 1984, 1986 and 1989.

The British battler, who was a treasured talent destined for the greatest stage, was granted that opportunity when women’s judo was accepted onto the Olympic programme in 1992. Briggs retired after a fifth-place finish in Barcelona and now runs her own judo club in England and leads an active network of judo schools. Briggs was promoted to 8th Dan in June 2015.


Driulis Gonzalez Morales - CubaImage title

Every competitive judoka shares the ultimate ambition of one day representing their country at an Olympic Games. Only a minority, the most disciplined and deserving, accomplish their goal. Cuba’s Driulis Gonzalez Morales walked into five Olympic Opening Ceremonies in her remarkable career and on four occasions came away with a medal – only IJF Hall of Famer Tani (born Tamura) Ryoko has won more with five to her name. In 1996, after a lifetime of hard work and sacrifices, Cuba’s reigning world champion became Olympic champion in Atlanta.

The three-time world champion had graced an Olympic podium for the first time in 1992 and repeated that result in 2004 with a silver in Sydney 2000 following her 1996 triumph. Driulis Gonzalez was Cuba’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony of the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil and promptly secured her third Pan American Games gold medal.


Gella Vandecaveye – BelgiumImage title

Seven-time European champion Gella Vandecaveye won honours at every level during a decade as one of the sport’s most prolific performers. The revered Belgian won her first world title in 1993 and between then and her next world crown in 2001, Vandecaveye dominated her continent as the accolades accumulated including the 1999 European Judoka of the Year award.

The Olympic Games was also blessed with the talents of Vandecaveye as she captured silver in 1996 and four years later won bronze to seal her legacy and place among the upper echelons of her country’s finest Olympians.


Soraya Haddad - AlgeriaImage title

Algeria’s Soraya Haddad won medals for her country on the biggest stages in judo. The multiple-time African champion brought notoriety to Algeria when she stepped up to succeed at world level in 2005 with a bronze medal at the World Championships. That result gave the highly-popular fighter the belief to perform to the best of her ability at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and win a heroic bronze medal for her country. More accolades followed including Grand Prix victories and Grand Slam and World Masters medals as Haddad became one of the leading names in the early years of the IJF World Judo Tour.

Haddad is now a coach in her native El-Kseur where she is committed to nurturing the next generation of judokas for Algeria.


Maria Pekli - AustraliaImage title

Five-time Olympian Maria Pekli made history in 2000 which reverberated around the world when she became the first Australian woman to win an Olympic judo medal since women’s judo officially joined the Olympic programme in 1992. The Australian judoka of Hungarian descent won bronze in Sydney and won Commonwealth Games gold in Manchester 2002.

In 2008 Pekli joined Cuba’s Driulis Gonzalez and Japan’s Tani (born Tamura) Ryoko as the first female judoka to compete at five Olympic Games, with two appearences for her native Hungary and three for her adopted Australia.

In 2011, Pekli, a winner of seven national titles in a row, was awarded Lifetime Membership of Judo Australia for her contribution to the sport at the Australian National Judo Championships.


George Kerr

George Kerr - Scotland

Edinburgh's living legend George Kerr is one of the most decorated and respected sportsmen in the history of British sport.

Kerr was awarded his 10th Dan (Judan) by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for international services to judo in 2010 after a fairytale career which included European Championship honours, top-class refereeing and guiding Peter Seisenbacher to two Olympic gold medals.

The scot became President of the British Judo Association in 2001 and a year later was named as one of the inaugural members of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours and also received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, after being named in Emperor Akihito's November 2010 honours list.

Franco Capeletti

Franco Capelletti - Italy

Franco Capelletti is one of the most lauded names in Italian judo and shares a lifetime of judo experience and knowledge as a technical advisor for the IJF and as vice-president of the European Judo Union (EJU).

The renowned 9th Dan (Kyudan) is also a kata commission director and European education commissioner for the IJF and retains a strong connection to the grassroots level of the sport as President of his highly-respected club, Judo Club Capelletti, which he formed in 2002.

The famed Italian has recruited and trained specialised teachers to the club including his son Fabio.

Peter Seisenbacher

Peter Seisenbacher - Austria

Austrian icon Peter Seisenbacher became the first judoka to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals after claiming the top prize at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

Shortly after competing at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, Seisenbacher made a three-month visit to Japan and in the words of his coach George Kerr he "came back a different fighter". The Vienna-born standout also won the 1985 World Championships and 1986 European Championships.

Seisenbacher has followed the path of his mentor and has already enjoyed similar success as a coach. The former -86kg star was head coach of the Georgian team at London 2012 when Lasha Shavdatuashvili won -66kg gold and is now steering the Azerbaijan team to success at the top level.

Kosei Inoue

Kosei Inoue - Japan

Japanese hero Kosei Inoue won admirers around the world during his competitive career.

The much-admired judoka won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and celebrated three World Championships triumphs during a glittering career. After retiring Inoue embarked on a trip to Britain on behalf of the Japanese Olympic Committee and was a well-received guest in Edinburgh, where he stayed for six months, and then in London where he spent a year at The Budokwai, following a long-standing tradition of Japanese greats coaching at Europe's oldest continuously running club.

Inoue is now the head coach of the Japanese team and firmly remains one of the most popular figures in the sport.

David Douillet

David Douillet - France

The imposing Frenchman dominated heavyweight judo for close to a decade as he won honours on every stage. A physical specimen who boasted finesse and power, Douillet won Olympic gold at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 and won four World Championship titles along with four European Championship medals.

Through his illustrious career he worked tirelessly to promote numerous charitable organisations and was held in high regard by his peers. After retiring Douillet established himself in politics with roles such as Minister of Sport and has worked as a television personality in France.

Ezio Gamba

Ezio Gamba - Italy

Four-time Olympian Ezio Gamba was one of the world's leading judoka in the 1980's as he translated continental honours into world and Olympic medals.

The Brescia native won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games and took silver four years later in Los Angeles. The -71kg star won senior European medals including gold in 1982 and came away with two senior world medals in 1979 and 1983 repetitively as he prepared for his Olympic challenge.

Gamba's greatest triumph came in Moscow and now over three decades later he plies his trade with the Russian team as head coach. The humble Italian masterminded Russia's success at London 2012 as they topped the medal table and is guiding them towards Rio 2016. Gamba also acts as a technical advisor for the EJU and IJF and is one of the most sought after figures in the sport.

Thierry Rey

Thierry Rey - France

Four-time European medallist Thierry Rey followed up on his 1979 World Championships gold by winning gold for France at 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

In 1983, he memorably became European champion at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris before retiring a year later. In 2007, Rey became President of the judo section for Lagardére Paris Racing, having been responsible for the Paris region for several years and in 2008 become the director of elite sports development for Lagardére Paris Racing and Team Lagardére.

A prominent columnist and television personality, Rey remains an influential member of the judo family in his homeland.

Jean-Luc Rougé

Jean-Luc Rougé - France

For all the great judo champions France has produced, Jean-Luc Rougé will forever hold the honour of being the country's first world champion.

The four-time European champion helped to shape the sport as a pioneering athlete and after retiring helped to steer the French Judo Federation into becoming one of the most prosperous and visible national judo federations in the world. Jan-Luc Rougé was elected as President of the French Judo Federation in 2005 and in 2011 was elected as general secretary of the IJF and has been integral to the success of both organisations. His insatiable passion for the sport and history-making exploits as a world-renowned judoka led the Frenchman to share the secrets to his famed harai-goshi in a highly-popular book.

Patrick Hickey

Patrick Hickey - Ireland

Patrick Hickey once said that he owes his life in sport to judo. The Irish sports administrator represented his country on the tatmi before going on to fulfil numerous key roles in the Olympic domain.

In 1989, Hickey became Honorary Life President of the Irish Judo Association and President of the Olympic Council of Ireland and was Chef de Mission for his country at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

Hickey is currently President of the European Olympic Committee. A member of the Executive Board and vice-president of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and since 2012 has been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board.

Robert van de Walle

Robert van de Walle - Belgium

Every athlete dreams of competing at an Olympic Games. Robert van de Walle accomplished that feat five times and was the first judoka to do so. He won gold in 1980 which earned him the Belgian Sportsperson of the Year accolade and eight years later came to the fore again to win bronze in 1988.

The Ostend-born judoka competed in the -95kg and openweight categories and with over a decade at the top of the sport he left his mark as an all-time great.

The Belgian won seven senior World Championship medals and an astonishing 17 senior European Championship medals including two gold.

Mohamed Ali Rashwan

Mohamed Ali Rashwan - Egypt

Two-time world silver medallist Mohamed Ali Rashwan exuded judo's core values of honour, respect and integrity.

In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic openweight final the Egyptian famously avoided targeting the injured right calf of his opponent Yasuhiro Yamashita and had to settle for silver. Ali Rashwan won an international fair play award for his conduct and the everlasting respect of his compatriots and the Japanese fans.

His Olympic result inspired him to win back-to-back world silver medals in 1985 and 1987 in South Korea and West Germany respectively.

Ali Rashwan retired from competing in 1992 and is now a top-class international referee and key member of the Egyptian Judo Federation.

Ryoko Tani

Ryoko Tani - Japan

Tani (née Tamura) Ryoko became the first female judoka to compete at five Olympic Games. Tani won a medal at all five Games including gold in 2000 and 2004 in Sydney and Athens respectively.

The seven-time world champion was unbeaten in major competitions between Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008 and her unparalleled success saw her become the most popular judoka on the planet.

After retiring Tani entered politics and was a member of the Democratic Party between 2010 and 2012.

The Japanese star was one of the most dominant judoka the sport has seen and is widely regarded as the greatest female judoka of all time.

Ingrid Berghmans

Ingrid Berghmans - Belgium

Belgium's Ingrid Berghmans possessed a talent that belonged on the sport's greatest stage.

Berghmans had the opportunity to compete at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games when women's judo was a demonstration sport and she won gold.

The eight-time Belgian Sportswoman of the Year won an incredible 11 world medals including six gold between 1980 and 1989. The Belgian ace ruled Europe seven times and won four silver and three bronze medals as the most accomplished judoka in the -72kg category.

Vladimir Nevzorov

Vladimir Nevzorov - Russia

Vladimir Nevzorov captured the Olympic title at the age of 23 as he won the -70kg category at the 1976 Montreal Games.

Nevzorov entered the 1976 Olympics as the world champion and European champion and completed an incredible treble which cemented his legacy.

Nevzorov, who also won national and European sambo honours, went on to win another European crown before retiring and moving into coaching. After spells with the Soviet national team and France, Nevzorov was head coach for the 2000 Russian Olympic judo team and later became vice-president of the Russian Judo Federation.

Willem Ruska

Willem Ruska - Netherlands

The world-renowned Dutchman became the only judoka to win two gold medals at the same Olympic Games as he won the heavyweight and openweight categories at the 1972 Munich Games.

Ruska captured the world title in 1967 and 1971 in the heavyweight category with an openweight silver medal to show for his 1969 appearance.

During an illustrious career the 10-time Dutch national champion ruled Europe seven times and won three silver and two bronze medals.

Ruska retired after the 1972 Munich Games having captured every title in the sport and etching his name into the history books.

Aurelio Fernandez Miguel

Aurelio Fernandez Miguel - Brazil

Aurelio Fernandez Miguel stamped his name on the sport by winning -95kg gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

A seven-time Pan American champion, the Brazilian judoka would show the world that he was one of the finest judoka in the sport with success on the sport's greatest stage. Miguel won a second Olympic medal eight years after his first as he took bronze at Atlanta 1996. The following year he claimed silver at the World Championships in Paris, the third world medal of his career with one bronze and one silver already to his name.

After retiring, he moved into politics in his native Sao Paulo in 2004 and was re-elected for the city council in 2008 under the banner of the Republic Party.

Héctor Rodríguez Torres

Héctor Rodríguez Torres - Cuba

The Cuban trailblazer earned the nickname "The Volcano of Montreal" when he won -63kg gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.

Rodriguez became the first Cuban judoka to win Olympic gold and the first non-Japanese judoka to win the lightest category in Olympic judo.

The 1973 world bronze medallist paved the way for young Cubans to follow his path and was integral to the continued development of the sport in his country.

After retiring, Rodríguez coached the national team and led his charges to World Youth Championships success before moving on to work in a High Performance Centre in Madrid. Rodríguez is a member of the Panamerican Judo Union's Hall of Fame.

Neil Adams

Neil Adams - Great Britain

Neil Adams, who was the first British male to win a world title, is the most decorated and celebrated British judoka of all time.

Adams won back-to-back Olympic silver medals at the 1980 and 1984 Games in Moscow and Los Angeles respectively. In 1981 he became the first Briton to simultaneously hold a European and world title.

As a talent for the ages to marvel at the four-time senior world medallist won eight medals the senior European Championships including five gold.

After a remarkable career which saw him become as popular in Japan as we was in Britain, Adams started a coach education business and was an in demand coach with spells as head coach for the Welsh Judo Association and a national coach in Belgium.

Adams is currently a commentator and technical advisor for the IJF and the director of elite coaching for the British Judo Association.

Anton Geesink

Anton Geesink - Netherlands

Anton Geesink was a world-renowned 10th Dan from the Netherlands who was known as a gentle giant off the tatmi.

To great fanfare Geesink showed the world that Japan were beatable as he won the openweight title at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games while the three other categories were all won by Japanese judoka.

Geesink won 21 senior European Championship gold medals and in 1961 became the first non-Japanese World Champion. The Dutchman retired in 1967 and became a member of the Board of the Dutch National Olympic Committee and later the IOC.

His native city of Utrecht honoured him with a statue in the centre of the city in 1995 and in 1997 he was awarded the coveted 10th Dan by the IJF. Further honours followed including the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government and in 2000 he received an honorary doctorate by Kokushikan University.

A street in Utrecht was named after him and Geesink lived there until his death in August 2010.

Charles Palmer

Charles Palmer - Great Britain

Charles Palmer is fondly recalled as the "father of modern judo".

A talented judoka who once captained the British team, Palmer would go on to change the course of the sport after retiring from competition. In 1961, the flamboyant Briton was elected chairman of the British Judo Association, a post which he held for the next 24 years. In 1965, he was elected as the first non-Japanese President of the IJF.

He was appointed OBE in 1973, and was awarded the Key of the City of Taipei in 1974 and the Key of the City in Seoul in 1981.

In 1983, he was elected as chairman of the British Olympic Association (BOA) and fulfilled that role until 1988. In 1999, he was awarded his 10th Dan by the IJF to widespread acclaim. Palmer died aged 71 in 2001.