Top 10 Olympic Judo Fighters of All Time

Judo fighters posing
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Judo is a tough sport. You have to be strong; you have to be balanced; and you have to possess a 'never say die' attitude.  And that's only to be a competitor. Now to be an Olympic competitor, let alone one of the best of all-time, one must truly embody those characteristics. They must truly be defining attributes.

Forthcoming is a list of the top 5 judo competitors to ever compete in the Olympic games. Keep in mind that this is not a list of the top 5 judo competitors in general. Rather, this list is focused on the Olympic games. That said, when it got hard to differentiate- meaning that the resumes were pretty equal- then other factors, such as world championship wins outside of the Games, were taken into account.

So without further ado, follow our numbered links below to find out who made the top 10 in a sport that was invented by Japan's Jigoro Kano.

10. Xian Dongmei (China)

Xian Dongmei accepting gold medal
Clive Rose / Staff / Getty Images

Xian Dongmei managed two consecutive gold medals at -52kg. She also managed to win one in her home country of Beijing in 2008. And let's face it- two gold medals gets you a look on this list for sure. In Dongmei's case, it netted her number 10.

Medal Wins

2004 Athens- Gold Medal (-52kg)

2008 Beijing- Gold Medal (-52kg)

9. Ayumi Tanimoto (Japan)

Ayumi Tanimoto is just another in a long line of amazing Japanese judo competitors.  She landed ahead of Xian Dongmei, another two-time gold medalist, due to wins outside of the Olympics (such as in the Asian Games and Asian Championships).

Medal Wins

2004 Athens- Gold Medal (-63kg)

2008 Beijing- Gold Medal (-63kg)

8. Masae Ueno (Japan)

Yep- we're talking about another Japanese competitor.  Get used to it, as the Japanese dominate this list (it's the birthplace of the sport, so that makes sense).  Masae Ueno, another two-time gold medalist, placed ahead of Ayumi Tanimoto due to the six combined gold medals she's accumulated outside of the Olympic Games in the Asian Championships, Asian Games, and World Championships.

Medal Wins

2004 Athens- Gold Medal (-70kg)

2008 Beijing- Gold Medal (-70kg)

7, Masato Uchishiba (Japan)

Masato Uchishiba lands at number seven on our list with his two gold medal victories.  He's the first male competitor to make the top 10, and for good reason.

Medal Wins

2004 Athens- Gold Medal (66kg)

2008 Beijing- Gold Medal (66kg)

6. Peter Seisenbacher (Austria)

Austria's Peter Seisenbacher comes in at number 6 on our list.  Another two time gold medalist, he managed to net a spot ahead of Masato Uchishiba due to his World Championships gold medal, as well as multiple medals in the European Championships.

Medal Wins

1984 Los Angeles- Gold Medal (-86kg)

1988 Seoul- Gold Medal (-86kg)

5. Hitoshi Saito (Japan)

Another Japanese judoka makes this list with two gold medals.  What sets Hitoshi Saito apart from both Peter Seisenbacher and Masato Uchishiba are his gold medal wins in the Asian Championships, Asian Games, and World Championships.

Medal Wins

1984 Los Angeles- Gold Medal (+95kg)

1988 Seoul- Gold Medal (+95kg)

4. Driulis Gonzalez (Cuba)

It's hard to make the Olympics, period.  The athletes keep getting younger- or in reality, you keep getting older- and the training methods keep improving.  So the fact that Cuba's Driulis Gonzalez is one of only two female judokas to compete in five Olympic Games probably would have put her on this list anyway.

But winning medals in four of those Olympics, including a gold in 1996, managed to net her a position at number four on this list.  Longevity alone put her ahead of some of the other competitors with two gold medals to their names.

Medal Wins

1992 Barcelona- Bronze Medal (-56kg)

1996 Atlanta- Gold Medal (-56kg)

2000 Sydney- Silver Medal (-57kg)

2004 Athens- Bronze Medal (-63kg)

3. David Douillet (France)

You want to talk about a big man?  When France's David Douillet stood on the podium to accept his two gold medals and one bronze, he stood at 6-foot-5 inches and weighed in at 276 pounds.  Of course, the medals prove that he was hardly just a big man; he was a big man with incredible martial arts capabilities.

And the three medals, including two first place finishes, landed him at number three on this 'best of' list.

By the way, back in 2011 David Douillet was named best male judoka in history by the International Judo Federation.  But this article isn't about that solely.  It's about success in the Olympics, and Douillet certainly had a lot of that.

Medal Wins

1992 Barcelona- Bronze Medal (+95kg)

1996 Atlanta- Gold Medal (+95kg)

2000 Sydney- Gold Medal (+100kg)

2. Tadahiro Nomura (Japan)

Here is the thing- for many Olympic athletes, a gold medal is considered to be the crowning achievement in their sports career.  So those capable of winning two deserve the 'elite of the elite' status they gain.  In the case of Japan's Tadahiro Nomura, however, we're talking about a man who won three consecutive gold medals.  No other judoka has ever won three gold medals.  In the end, it was a tough call naming him number two on the list.  He certainly almost took the top spot due to an amazing Olympics career.

Medal Wins

1996 Atlanta- Gold Medal

2000 Sydney- Gold Medal

2004 Athens- Gold Medal

all at -60kg

1. Ryoko Tani (Japan)

Winning a gold medal is an awesome feat.  Winning two is amazing.   But when you add in the fact that Japan's Ryoko Tani also known as Ryoko Tamura, managed two additional silver medals and a bronze in the Olympic Games, you realize that we're talking about one of the more noteworthy Olympians in any sport ever.  And we're certainly talking about the best female Olympic judoka of all time.

In the end, she won Olympic medals over the course of 16 years, folks.  And that's what deservedly netted her the top spot on this list.

Medal Wins

1992 Barcelona- Silver Medal

1996 Atlanta- Silver Medal

2000 Sydney- Gold Medal

2004 Athens- Gold Medal

2008 Beijing- Bronze Medal

all at -48kg

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Rousseau, Robert. "Top 10 Olympic Judo Fighters of All Time." ThoughtCo, May. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/top-olympic-judo-fighters-of-all-time-2308314. Rousseau, Robert. (2017, May 4). Top 10 Olympic Judo Fighters of All Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-olympic-judo-fighters-of-all-time-2308314 Rousseau, Robert. "Top 10 Olympic Judo Fighters of All Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-olympic-judo-fighters-of-all-time-2308314 (accessed November 23, 2017).