She may stand at only 1.46 meters tall, but Ryoko Tani is one of Japan's biggest sporting stars.
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Age one —
On 6 September 1975 in Fukuoka, Japan, one of the greatest judokas of all time was born.
Age three —
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.
Age eight —
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.
Age nine —
It wasn't long before the gold medals began stacking up -- some by beating several boys along the way.
Age 10 —
"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.
Age 11 —
Tani credits her great success to "the support and guidance of her peers" as well as own relentless perseverance.
Age 18 —
She won her first World Championship title in 1993, defeating Li Aiyue of China in the final.
Age 19 —
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.
Age 20 —
By 1995, despite only recently leaving her teenage years behind her, Tani had won five consecutive Fukuoka International titles.
Age 24 —
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.
Age 26 —
Tani went a remarkable 12 years unbeaten at international level, winning every major competition she entered from the end of 1996 to 2008.
Age 27 —
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.