JudoCrazy and JudoInside
Hall of Fames are always controversial because of people who are inducted and people who are not. Take for example the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Every year when it comes time to induct new Hall of Famers there would be a ton of articles about how the HOF has left out this person or that person. And there would invariably be articles about how some inductees are the furthest thing from rock and roll. Toshihiko Koga was a Rockstar in his time with an exclusive repertoire that helped current athletes to have a signature technique inspired by Koga.
Well, the same type of commentary could very well be applied to the IJF Hall of Fame. It’s got some truly great competitors in there, which one would expect to be in a judo HOF such as Anton Geesink, Willem Ruska, Robert Van De Walle, Ingrid Berghmans, Yasuhiro Yamashita, Karen Briggs, Ryoko Tani, Jeon Ki-Young, Kosei Inoue and so on.
But there are also some athletes in there who are not exactly household names in judo, who undoubtedly have done great things for judo in their respective countries but weren’t World or Olympic champions.
48 Hall of Famers
Of the 48 Hall of Famers some have had an administrative position such as former IJF President George Kerr, IOC member Patrick Hickey and Jigoro Kano who’s Hall of Fame position is unrivalled. The 2013 Hall of Famer Peter Seisenbacher though was silently removed from the Hall of Fame list. Patrick Hickey must have brought the IJF in a difficult position as well following his arrest in 2016 and he had to step down from all his IOC positions. Hickey though is a judo friend of Marius Vizer and the EJU President as former European Olympic Committee Boss and former Irish Judo Federation President.
Ilham Zakiyev is the most decorated Paralympic athlete in the world and inducted at the occasion of the World Championships in Azerbaijan, also not a surprise.
Looking at the distribution per country (if that would be relevant in some way), Great Britain is somewhat over estimated with 5 Hall of Famers compared to great judo nations as Korea (2), Russia (1), France (3). Still we know it’s not about countries but individual performances and becoming an icon in judo. It’s a mystery for judo fans why someone like Tadahiro Nomura, the only man to have won three Olympic gold medals, is not in there. Another real head-scratcher is why Toshihiko Koga isn’t in there.
We understand that an active athlete such as Teddy Riner in not yet among the world’s best, as he will be for sure after his active career, same for one of Cuba’s best athletes ever Idalys Ortiz.
Spain though does not have anyone while Isabel Fernandez is definitely a candidate with an Olympic and World title as well as a stunning number of World Cup medals (if that is a criteria at all).
Double Olympic Champions
Waldemar Legien (POL) and Kayla Harrison (USA) are the only double Olympic Champions (besides Riner) outside Japan who are not in the Hall of Fame yet.
A person’s contribution to judo after competition is of course important too. You take someone like British World Champion Neil Adams. There are players out there with more World titles and Olympic titles but few displayed the dominance he exuded during the peak of his prime. A complete player who was equally skilled in standing and groundwork, he was feared by even the Japanese.
It would be hard for anyone to argue that ‘ the voice of judo’ doesn’t deserve to be in the IJF HOF when you consider his judo career in totality.
Koga as a promotor and coach
Now, let’s return to Koga, who is a three-time World Champion and Olympic champion. Results wise, it’s hard to argue that he’s not achieved much in that department. Dominance wise, it’s also hard to argue that he wasn’t the most dominant light-middleweight fighter in the world during the late 80s to mid-90s.
What about his post-career achievements? He wasn’t exactly a hermit who withdrew from the judo world. In fact, he has written several books and DVDs. It’s hard to say he hasn’t done his part to promote judo among the masses. As for coaching, double Olympic champion and Hall of Famer Ayumi Tanimoto was his student. Enough said.
The IJF has published a few articles about Koga’s death. It has also produced a tribute video for Koga. It would be ridiculous if he wasn’t inducted into the next Hall of Fame class. While they’re at it, they might as well induct Nomura as well. He certainly deserves to be in there even if just for results alone.
Top countries in the IJF Hall of Fame
5 Great Britain
11 countries have one Hall of Famer.