As you saw during our Miss Fit competition, sports are an important part of life for both men and women in the FSU. While Russian athletes have dominated in gymnastics, track and wrestling for many years, they added a new category during the 2012 Olympics.
Under the tutelage of Italian Judo champion Ezio Gamba, the Men’s Russian Judo Team made history. For the first time in the sport’s history, Russia came home from the Olympic Games with 3 gold medals, a bronze and a silver. Gamba has now been made head coach of the women’s team to help their odds of doing the same in Rio in 2016.
History of Judo
Judo is a modern competitive martial art created by Jigoro Kana in 1882 in Japan. Judo – which translates as “gentle way” -- has always been considered an inclusive sport appropriate for both men and women. Its creator stressed courtesy, safety and sportsmanship. Women in Japan were the first to join the ranks of judokas. As the sport spread around the world, more women competed in judo tournaments. The first international tournament for women was at the 1980 World Judo Cup. Women’s Judo was brought to the 1988 Olympics as a demonstration sport, and added as an official medal event in 1992.
Judo in Russia
Russian martial arts trainer Vasili Oschepkov was the first foreigner to learn the sport. He returned to Russia and began training Russian athletes and soldiers in judo, and also incorporating judo moves into native wrestling styles. The Russian sport of SAMBO is considered by some Russians to be interchangeable with judo. Judo is a favorite sport of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which can help explain its growing popularity with Russian athletes.
It took only three years of training under Gamba for the men's team to dominate at the 2012 games. Gamba says that, instead of simply turning his focus on the female athletes, he intends for both the men’s and women’s teams to excel in 2016. He told Russia Times, “I think that in Rio 2016 the Russian female judokas will be able to win three medals and men will grab five.”