Judo World

Legends of Judo: How Anton Geesink changed the sport forever

Anton Geesink from Netherlands, poses wearing the gold medal he won in the Judo Open event at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, October 1964.  World champion in 1961 and 1965 the giant (2-metre) Dutchman won the European title for individuals 13 times. / AFP PHOTO / -        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Anton Geesink: The man who changed judo
01:07 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Dutch judoka broke Japanese dominance

Geesink won gold at 1964 Tokyo Olympics

CNN  — 

It was the moment that changed judo forever.

For so long the sport was the preserve of Japan, but Dutchman Anton Geesink broke the stranglehold by becoming the first non-Japanese judoka to win the World Championship in 1961.

Legends of Judo: Anton Geesink

1956 World Championships: Bronze1961 World Championships: Gold1964 Olympic Games: Gold1965 World Championships: Gold

The sport was invented in Japan in the 1880s and its judokas were pre-eminent.

When the first World Championships were staged in Tokyo in 1956, Japan’s Shokichi Natsui upheld his country’s honor.

At the second world event back in Tokyo in 1958, Koji Sone added Japan’s second title.

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But at the next World Championships three years later, Geesink struck.

Anton Geesink won gold at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

He had won bronze in 1956, but defeated Sone in the open class in Paris to shock the sport and open it up to the world.

Geesink followed up this feat by bagging gold on judo’s Olympic debut at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. He beat Akio Kaminaga in front of his home crowd to cement his status as one of the best judokas of his generation.

He triumphed again, this time in the heavy class, at the fourth worlds in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1965. He was still the only non-Japanese gold medalist in any of the weight categories at world or Olympic level.

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Geesink retired from competitive judo in 1967 following the last of multiple European titles.

He has a street named after him in his hometown of Utrecht, Netherlands and was honored by the Japanese government for his achievements in judo in 1997.

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Geesink died aged 76 in August 2010 but remains a legend in the sport of judo.