Judo through the lens – Born into a life of judo, International Judo Federation photographer Jack Willingham goes through his work, picking out his favorite images and explaining why he loves the sport.
Ilias Iliadis vs. Kiril Denisov – "I have been a judo fan all my life," says Willingham. "I was a volunteer at the Athens 2004 Olympics in the judo and watched Ilias Iliadis win Olympic gold at 17 years old (I was 16 at the time). So for me, it has been amazing to be able to document the ups and downs of his career so closely. He is one of the most spectacular judokas, when he's on the mat something extraordinary invariably happens! He is also one of my favorite judoka of all time. I have two shots of him that I particularly like. This is at the 2011 World Championships in Paris, which he would go on to win to become a double world champion. In the semifinal against one of his great rivals Kiril Denisov, he threw with this incredible Ura Nage for ippon to put him into the final."
Ilias Iliadis vs. Noel Van T End – "Not such an historic moment, but one of my favorite action shots ever. Both men clear of the mat, in mid air, this is Iliadis throwing Noel Van T End with Uchi Mata to win the 2014 Dusseldorf Grand Prix."
Maljinda Kelmendi – Maljinda Kelmendi has been one of the most dominant judokas on the planet over the last four years," says Willingham. "This is partly thanks to the efforts of the International Judo Federation and its president Marius Vizer, who recognized Kosovo as a nation on the judo circuit. The International Olympic Committee accepted Kosovo into the Games in time for Rio 2016, allowing her to become the first ever Olympic gold medalist from that country. This shot is her leaving the tatami after the Olympic final, completely overcome with emotion, her coach Driton Kuka in the background, also with tears in his eyes."
Maljinda Kelmendi and Thomas Bach – "The second shot I am proud of as it's IOC president Thomas Bach awarding Kelmendi her medal. Once again it's historic, but I also took a risk and snuck around to the side to see both of their faces and managed to find a gap between two of the medal hostesses to get the exact shot I wanted. This also meant I'm sure I'm the only person in the world with this image!"
Rafaela Silva – Hailing from Cidade de Deus -- featured in the award-winning film the City of God -- Rafaela Silva is another judoka that boasts an amazing story. Here she is celebrating becoming world champion in Rio in 2013.
Rafaela Silva – "This is effectively the same shot as the previous one, when she won Brazil's first gold medal at the Rio Olympics! Although not quite the same angle, I loved the symmetry."
Kayla Harrison – "I have a great friendship with Kayla Harrison, so for her to pick me out and strike a pose as she won her second Olympic title in Rio was really cool. She's a great character, and probably the most determined and mentally tough athlete I've come across."
David Larose – This image is in because I love working in Paris. The iconic Bercy Stadium (as it was called then) has the best public, atmosphere and energy of any tournament in the world. This picture is France's David Larose celebrating after winning the Paris Grand Slam in 2013. I love the story it tells: Larose ecstatic standing over a distraught Davaadorj Tumurkhuleg, the scoreboard reading ippon and the crowd going mad.
Lee Kyu Won vs. Masashi Nishiyama – "This throw from the -90kg final of the 2012 Tokyo Grand Slam final by former world champion Lee Kyu Won against Masashi Nishiyama to me really shows how much drive with the legs Lee needs to finish the throw off. I love the expression on his face, I love the flailing arms of Nishiyama trying to scramble to avoid the inevitable, there's so much in this one. It is one my favorites on image alone but, for me, it holds a special place in my heart because 2012 was the first time I had ever been to Japan, the home of judo, and it was my first visit to the legendary Tokyo Grand Slam. So to come away with such a great shot made it all the more special."
Kaori Matsumoto – "This is a portrait of Olympic and double world champion Kaori Matsumoto. One of the most feared athletes in women's judo, her nickname is the assassin. This is her waiting to come out to fight in the Tokyo Grand Slam final. I love the intensity and the focus this image portrays."
Shohei Ono – Shohei Ono is now an Olympic and double world champion at -73kg. But in 2013, he had none of those titles. This is him throwing France's Ugo Legrand for ippon in the 2013 World Championship final to become world champion for the first time. If I could choose only one picture to define my career, it would be this. Legrand is so perfectly vertical, which you rarely see in judo... let alone in a world championship final. This was the birth of a legend.
Teddy Riner – "This shot is in for a number of reasons. Teddy Riner is now unquestionably the greatest judoka of all time. Double Olympic and nine-time world champion (he's going for his tenth in November), so he had to be in my list for that. This is also in Paris, in front of his home crowd at the Grand Slam. It's a massive Uchi Mata (one of judo's classical techniques) and it's not all that often you see the men in the +100kg (some of them upwards of 150kg) launched so high and with such precision."