Netherlands experienced a legendary judo day 20 years ago at the Sydney Olympic Games. Mark Huizinga became the first (and last) Olympic Champion for his country after legends Anton Geesink and Wim Ruska. 20 September changed Huizinga’s life. JudoInside was the one of the first to picture Mark just after the event. We look back to 20 September 2000, drawn up by Barnaby Chesterman on behalf of The World of Judo Magazine.
Mark Huizinga of the Netherlands finally claimed an international gold medal to add to the three European championships he has won over the last four years. But the burden of becoming the first Dutch Olympic gold medallist had also been playing on his mind. "I have thought about that for a long time," he said. "Now that I have won the medal, I need more time to realise what I have accomplished. But I have a lot of time for that." Huizinga was one of the original favourites but while the others dropped like flies, he looked the class competitor in the field and dominated to storm to gold. In the final he faced Carlos Honorato of Brazil, an almost unknown a year ago before the World championships in Birmingham where he ruffled a few feathers before finishing a credible seventh. Honorato caused a sensation by beating the World champion, Hidehiko Yoshida of Japan in the quarter-finals with a beautiful Uchi-mata for Ippon. That victory was marred, however, by a tragic injury to Yoshida, who had to be stretchered off the mat at the end. As he fell he stretched out his right arm to break his fall, but as his weight came down on his arm, it buckled and he dislocated his elbow.
Honorato was a popular medallist as he enthralled the crowd with some dynamic Judo but the experience of Huizinga, who won a bronze medal four years ago, was too much for him in the final. Huizinga's toughest fight came against Adrian Croitoru of Romania in the quarter-finals. The Dutchman had been beaten convincingly by Croitoru in the European championship final in May and was then beaten again a week later in the European Cup for teams. But this time he managed to score a vital Koka against the out-of-sorts Romanian, and that was enough to win what many thought would have made a great final. Croitoru was having an off-day and lost again in the repechage, thus failing to improve on his fifth placing in the last two Olympics. The bronze medals went instead to Ruslan Mashurenko of Ukraine and Frederic Demontfaucon of France. Demontfaucon won his with a spectacular Ippon against Rasul Salimov of Azerbaijan in the bronze medal fight. The Frenchman spun underneath his opponent and executed a full standing Morote-seoinage to win the bronze. It was a great moment for Demontfaucon who has suffered many injuries in recent years that have hindered his international outings. "I am very satisfied with this medal in my first Olympic Games," he said. "I have had to sacrifice a lot in with my wife and my young family to train for this, so going home with a medal around my neck has made it all worthwhile."
The fifth day of the Olympic Judo tournament in Sydney proved to be particularly special for World champion Sibelis Veranes of Cuba who claimed the ultimate title to underline her authority in the women's -70kgs category.
Veranes won the title by beating the woman she deposed as World champion, Kate Howey of Great Britain, with a Waza-ari from a Tani-otoshi attack. Veranes was always in control of the final after scoring the Waza-ari early in the bout. But she had to survive one worrying moment as Howey came close to successfully applying Juji-gatame. "That was my chance," said Howey but the Cuban held out and managed to wriggle free. About the armlock, Veranes said: "I had to give everything there and then to escape."
Veranes continued the dominance of Cuban woman in Judo by claiming their second gold of the Games. She was always the favourite from the beginning and took just ten seconds to dispose of her first opponent, Yvonne Wansart of Germany. After that she had to earn the gold the hard way by going the full four minutes with each of her next three opponents. In the semi-final Veranes faced Min Sun Cho of South Korea who was the reigning champion at -66kgs, a now obsolete weight category since the they were changed two years ago. This proved to be her hardest test and the Cuban only needed a late minor score to ensure victory. "My whole life feels complete now," said said through a beaming smile. "It was a great experience. It is the biggest thing that can happen to an athlete."
Howey was equally delighted with her medal after reversing European championship final defeat against Ursula Martin of Spain, in her semi-final. "Revenge was sweet," she said. "I would rather have won that semi-final than the final in Wroclaw. This means everything to me. It feels absolutely fantastic and I'm glad to prove I'm still one of the best." Despite only ever winning one gold medal in the 1997 World championships, Howey remains the most consistent performer in women's judo in the world. Since 1990 she has won a major tournament medal every year except for 1996 when she finished fifth in the Atlanta Olympics.
Cho's semi-final defeat to Veranes and the Belgian, Ulla Werbrouck's quarter-final defeat against Ursula Martin of Spain, pitted two reigning Olympic champions against each other in a fight for bronze. Werbrouck won the -72kgs weight category in Atlanta and while Cho has since stepped up a weight, the Belgian has trimmed a couple of kilos. Werbrouck had defeated Cho in the final of the prestigious Tournoi de Paris in February but the Korean got her revenge here with a Waza-ari victory. Both women, who are amongst the oldest competitors, were visibly tiring towards the end but the Korean managed to sum up enough energy to withstand some probing attacks from Werbrouck. The last bronze went to Ylenia Scapin of Italy who beat Martin in their bronze fight. The Italian was clearly delighted with her medal and couldn't stop smiling and joking around with photographers.
15 years later Mark Huizinga competed for the last time in his career at the World veteran Championships and won the world title