There are only a few months to go before the 2012 Olympic Games get underway in London, and one of the sporting disciplines there that has enjoyed the fastest growth in its popularity is Judo.
Initially developed in 1882 by Japanese educator Jigoro Kano, Judo is many things to different people: martial art, sport and even a way of life.
France’s Teddy Riner was the star of the final day of competition at the Judo Grand Slam in Paris on Sunday, February 5. The 22-year-old edged out Brazil’s Rafael Silva to claim the 100+ kilo heavyweight class.
Riner who became the first man to win five world judo championship titles when he beat Germany’s Andreas Toelzer in August, was asked after his victory if he agreed with some people who say the Judo calendar features too many events. But for Riner, more is better.
“It’s true that there are many competitions within the sport but I honestly believe that this is a good thing. It shows how far judo has come. More people are starting to get interested and this is great for the sport,” he said.
Judo became an Olympic sport in 1964 and despite decades of international expansion, IJF President Marius Vizer believes the sport deserves more exposure, so that the efforts of those involved are properly rewarded.
“Judo is a way of educating people. It teaches morals and values and, in my opinion, it’s more than a sport, it’s a way of life. It’s only fair that competitors and trainers earn a living through this art. If you look at other sports, most athletes make a decent living and with the way things are going at the moment, I think it’s about time Judo received more funding.”
The 2012 Olympic Games kick off in London on July 27, with the judo getting under way the following day.