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COLUMN: Tribute to Neil Adams
COLUMN: Tribute to Neil Adams
16 Jun 2019 18:10
Column by Andy Wheeler
IJF Robin Willingham / International Judo Federation

The first time we saw Neil in person, was at a Destination Judo event in the north of England, where he was the attraction at a kids seminar. At the end of the day he stayed back for photos. A lot of photos. Every kid that day went home with a memento of having shared the mat with a living legend, one who’s smile in the last picture of the day, matched the first. I got him to sign my copy of his great book A Life In Judo.

He was there with his lovely wife and kids who were manning a couple of small tables with merchandise on.

As I took in the vista, I was saddened, and this is in no way a negative reflection towards Neil and his girls, necessity being the mother of invention.

I was saddened because you wouldn’t expect to see Nick Faldo or Nigel Mansell, flogging their wares on a couple of small tables.

Neil was every bit as good at his game as they were at theirs. Active in similar  eras.

The difference being, they were paid a kings ransom, for dedicating their lives to a sporting pursuit that paid. With a net worth of $150M  between them.

Neil chose judo

Judo with its code and figurehead, to some almost seems a religion.

Its players like the monks of yore, having taken a vow of poverty.

It shouldn’t be so.

As I watched him that day, awaiting our turn in line, he ‘screamed’ one word.


He's the BJA's greatest advert, though they’ve failed to realise, or they choose to overlook it.

His presence on the world stage to this day, is a constant reminder for keen British parents and kids alike, who are determined to go as far as they can in the sport.

That it’s possible for a working class kid from Rugby, Warwickshire, to win five European Championships, medaling eight times, four World Championship medals taking Gold in 1981 in Maastricht, and reach two Olympic Finals.

With Judo as his vehicle........

Neil was later awarded an MBE for services to sport.

The honours system’s skewed in Britain.

Had Neil turned Silver Into Gold he would have been knighted, though Torvil and Dean are still long overdue.

He should have been knighted regardless the colour.

While foppish lackeys like Lord Charles Faulkner get a peerage for having once been room-mates with ex Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Athletes like Neil get overlooked, they get a lesser reward, as if their Herculean feats in the arena, are inferior to Champagne Charlie, having once given Tony a reach-around, in a drunken fumble after one too many Dacaris during freshers week.

Come on British Judo Association, if it’s down to a recommendation from you to get him an upgrade in next years list, you should be emailing the honours committee, on the hour every hour.

It's long overdue.

Priceless value

His value to British and World judo is priceless.

Never has the disparity between sports been more apparent than in a fictional look back, to the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May, in the not too distant past...........

Sir Nick Faldo and Nigel Mansell CBE, brand ambassadors for Maybach and Lotus respectively with a gaggle of other brands under their name, sit on a yacht full of scantily clad minxes, sipping cocktails as they watch the race.

Back in Britain, on a cold May morning, outside a sports hall in Durham City.

 There’s a man bent over, getting tables out of the boot.

Still giving back to the sport in every facet.

At every level representing his country and his sport exemplarily.

Arise Sir Neil Adams KBE

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