Sport

Ryoko Tani: A life in judo

Published 1719 GMT (0119 HKT) January 10, 2018
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Ryoko Tani of Japan celebrates gold sydney 2000 judoRyoko Tani of Japan celebrates gold sydney 2000 judo
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She may stand at only 1.46 meters tall, but Ryoko Tani is one of Japan's biggest sporting stars. Jamie Squire/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
On 6 September 1975 in Fukuoka, Japan, one of the greatest judokas of all time was born. Ryoko Tani
Tani, pictured here in Kumamoto, Japan, was initially discouraged from the path she'd follow -- her mother preferring her to take lessons in something "more fitting" such as tennis or the piano. Ryoko Tani
But, having taken to the tatami for the first time aged seven, Tani was engaged in competitive matches within a year. The Japanese hotshot has never looked back. Ryoko Tani
It wasn't long before the gold medals began stacking up -- some by beating several boys along the way. Ryoko Tani
"Strangely I did not feel much pressure when I was competing, but this was because I was training very hard every day, and I knew I was the most well-prepared for the competition," says Tani, pictured here at her first National Championships. Ryoko Tani
Tani credits her great success to "the support and guidance of her peers" as well as own relentless perseverance. Ryoko Tani
She won her first World Championship title in 1993, defeating Li Aiyue of China in the final. Ryoko Tani
Tani, pictured here at a training camp in France, has been afforded the chance to travel the world with sport. "Through the practicing of judo I have met many friends, fans and senseis who have supported me on this long journey," she says. Ryoko Tani
By 1995, despite only recently leaving her teenage years behind her, Tani had won five consecutive Fukuoka International titles. Ryoko Tani
Tani's single minded motto was "minimum gold, maximum gold," as she tells reporters here ahead of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. She would go on to triumph. Ryoko Tani
Tani went a remarkable 12 years unbeaten at international level, winning every major competition she entered from the end of 1996 to 2008.
Ryoko Tani
She is the first female judoka in history to compete at five Olympic games and remains the only one to walk away with a medal on every occasion. Ryoko Tani -- truly a legend of judo. Ryoko Tani