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CORRECTING THE REPORTING
By Steve Scott
This may seem trivial to some or not worth the time to read for others, but I was around in the early years of women's judo and believe there is a need to accurately portray the history of women's judo, in particular, here in the USA.
Kayla Harrison made history. She's the first U.S. judo athlete to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games. She is an authentic success story and deserves the honors she has won.
But, the reporting aired on NBC during their coverage of the Olympic Games in London stated several times that Kayla Harrison is the first U.S. female judo athlete to compete in an Olympic final and fight for the gold medal. Kayla is the first U.S. judo athlete (male or female) to win the gold medal, but NBC's reporting is incorrect. There is another U.S. judo athlete who is the first female to compete in an Olympic final and her name is Lynn Roethke @ right
There may be those who say that women's judo was a demonstration sport in the 1988 Olympics, so it really doesn't count. If that's the case, it is worth mentioning then that men's judo was also a demonstration sport in the 1964 Olympics and Jim Bregman was the deserving winner of the bronze medal, making him the first U.S. judo athlete to win an Olympic medal. A s far as I can tell, winning an Olympic medal is winning an Olympic medal. Jim Bregman
"Demonstration" sports have no less importance and are of equal standing to any other sport in the Olympic Games. The gold medals won by Nakatani below right,
Okano,Inokuma and Geesink in Tokyo in 1964 are as valid as any gold (or other) medal won in any year in any Olympic Games by any athlete. Likewise, the medals earned by Lynn Roethke in the 1988 Olympics and Jim Bregman in the 1964 Olympics are as valid as the medals won by every other medal winner in every other Olympic Games. I am friends with both Lynn and Jim and know of the sacrifices they made and how hard they had to fight to win the Olympic medals they did. That aside, fair is fair and it's important to give credit to those who deserve it.
Real history is real history and what actually happened leading up to including judo in the 1964 Olympics is that the IOC accepted judo as "an optional sport at the discretion of the host country." In 1958, when the IOC awarded the 1964 Olympic Games to Tokyo, the organizing committee in Tokyo immediately petitioned the IOC to include judo. As some of you may remember, once the IJF and IOC worked out the weight classes, judo was accepted, but as an "optional" sport. Judo was accepted as a "full" sport for men in the 1972 Munich Olympics. I n 1988, the IOC permitted Korea to include both taekwondo as a demonstration sport and judo for women as a "demonstration" sport. Taekwondo was again included as a demonstration sport in 1992 (eventually gaining "full" status in 2000). Judo for women was accepted as a "full" sport for the 1992 Olympics.
It wasn't until 1966 that Charles Palmer as the IJF President learned that judo had been included in Tokyo as an "optional" sport and would not be included in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Palmer (and the IJF) worked hard to get judo included in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Sir Charles succeeded and judo (for men) was made a permanent part of the Olympic Games.
In 1980 the IJF recognized women's judo and the first World Judo Championships for women was held in New York. That opened the door for women's judo to eventually be included in the Olympic Games. Growing Judo, September 2012 Page 10
In 1988, women's judo was included in the Olympics in Seoul as a "demonstration" sport. As Nicholas Soames and Roy Inman wrote in their excellent book OLYMPIC JUDO: HISTORY AND TECHNIQUES: "The term 'demonstration' was nonsense. This was a real competition in all but name..." The top 8 women in the world in each weight class competed in the 1988 Olympics. Finally...women's judo had made it to the Olympics.
The USA won 2 medals in the women's judo event in 1988. Lynn Roethke won the silver medal in the 61 kg. class and Margie Castro won the bronze medal in the +72 kg. class. Lynn won her silver medal before Margie did due to the order of the competition, so, for the record, Lynn Roethke is the first U.S. female judo athlete to win an Olympic medal of any type.
This, by no means, diminishes the historic achievement of Kayla Harrison. She deserves credit for being the first U.S. judo athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. Winning a medal in the Olympic Games is a huge deal. And because of that, we should give credit to each and every U.S. judo athlete who wins a medal in the Olympic Games. Overall, NBC's coverage of the Olympic Games in London has been good, but they made a mistake in this case and it needs to be corrected. And, to be honest, women's judo was sneered at by the powers-that-were in judo and female judo athletes had to fight to earn the respect they finally gained from the judo community at large. I fondly remember the first year (1973) that there were women's judo tournaments on the national level. The YMCA Judo Nationals in Racine, Wisconsin and the USJA Women's Judo Championships in N. Little Rock Arkansas attracted some of the toughest female judo athletes in the United States. It was those women judo athletes, their coaches and supporters who paved the way for women to gain full recognition and acceptance in the judo community at large. Kayla Harrison and Marti Malloy are the latest in a long line of exceptional and outstanding female judo athletes in the United States.
There's an old mariner's saying that goes like this: "If you don't know where you came from, you don't know how you got to where you are and you don't know where you are going (much less figure out how to get there)." History is important.
That being said, here's some brief U.S. judo history about the Olympics and World Championships. The first U.S. judo athlete to win an Olympic medal is Jim Bregman (bronze medal, 1964, Tokyo). The first U.S. judo athlete to win a gold medal in the Olympics is Kayla Harrison (2012, London). The first U.S. male athlete to compete in an Olympic final for the gold medal is Bob Berland (silver medal, 1984, Los Angeles). The first U.S. female athlete to compete in an Olympic final for the gold medal (and to win an Olympic medal of any type) is Lynn Roethke (silver medal, 1988, Seoul). Along these lines, Jim Bregman is the first U.S. judo athlete to win a medal at the World Championships (bronze, 1965, Rio de Janiero, Brazil).
AnnMaria (Burns) DeMars is the first U.S. judo athlete (female or male) to win a World Judo Championship (1984, Vienna, Austria). Mike Swain is the first U.S. male judo athlete to win a World Judo Championship (1987, Essen, Germany).