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Anton Geesink won the Olympic title 50 years ago in Tokyo
23 Oct 2014 14:10
It is exactly 50 years ago that judo had an historical day. Anton Geesink was the first judoka outside of Japan to beat the Japanese opponents. The tall Dutchman was in every sense a towering figure in the world of judo. He was 1.98m tall, weighed in at around 120kg and was very subtle, a real technician.
Geesink won the open title at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when judo was featured for the first time. For the Japanese, judo transcends sport. Success at the Tokyo Olympics was an endorsement of the national identity. Japanese fighters duly won the first three titles (lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight), but this was no compensation when the Dutchman Geesink won the fourth, and most important, crown.
The Japanese were mortified, but Geesink's victory effectively reshaped the future of the sport. The 1964 Games were the first to be televised live by satellite and the image of the giant Geesink towering over his opponent, Akio Kaminaga, went around the world.
In the preliminary rounds of the Olympic competition, Geesink met and defeated Kaminaga in the packed Nippon Budokan Hall. It took nine minutes and 33 seconds for Geesink to win by kesa-gatame, a ground hold where one arm goes behind the opponent's neck and the other secures his arm.
At the victory, a Dutch official rushed on to the mat but turned back as Geesink raised an imperious arm. The two fighters bowed to each other and to the referees.
Antonius Geesink, judoka, born 6 April 1934; died at 27 August 2010 but will live forever, and today we remember that special day that was essential for judo.
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