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YUICHI TANIMURA: The 17-year-old is in Burwood Hospital after hurting himself in a judo tournament earlier this month.


A Japanese exchange student suffered a life-changing injury in one of the worst accidents seen at a New Zealand judo tournament.

Taradale High School student Yuichi Tanimura broke his neck because he didn't turn his head far enough while attacking his opponent at a tournament in Wellington this month.

The mistake meant the teen celebrated his 17th birthday in Burwood Hospital in Canterbury on Saturday while his friends sent him cards and goodwill messages.

Yuichi is a black belt in Judo, having learnt the sport in Japan.

Judo New Zealand president Dave Browne said Yuichi won a bronze medal at the Wellington tournament before fighting a less experienced competitor in the junior open weight category.

He went to attack his opponent and dived over his head, heaving the weight of his body on to his neck, breaking his c5 and c7 vertebrae.

If he had turned his head slightly more, it was likely he would have landed on his shoulder, Mr Browne said.

Yuichi was transferred to Christchurch Hospital, where the dislocated vertebrae were fused. He was now in Burwood Hospital recovering from a swollen spinal cord.

His parents flew in from Japan to be at their son's bedside as soon as they learned of the accident. Mr Browne visited the family, who were still coming to terms with what had happened.

It was one of the worst injuries seen in the sport, Judo New Zealand national business director Graeme Downing said.

"An injury of this nature has never occurred in our 60-plus-year history in New Zealand."

The rules of judo were designed to protect the participants and a lot of emphasis was put on teaching students how to land safely.

Sprained fingers, broken toes, and dislocations were common but serious injuries were very rare, Mr Downing said.

Tournaments accept registered players over the age of 7 only.

"If you're too young we don't let you compete, if you're not a sufficient grade we don't let you compete and if you're not registered we don't let you compete," Mr Downing said.

"It's all in the name of safety."

Yuichi had trained with Napier Judo Club since arriving in New Zealand last year.

His clubmates posted their prayers and thoughts for their fellow judoka on Facebook.

The club treated Yuichi like a family member, Taradale High School principal Stephen Hensman said.

"Yuichi is the sort of person people are drawn to," he said.

The school sent cards and cake for his birthday.


Air New Zealand had donated $3000 so his host family and friends could visit Yuichi.

The airline had also given the school return tickets to Queenstown to raffle and raise money towards travel costs.

No-one yet knows the long-term outcome of Yuichi's injuries but Mr Hensman said the school community remained hopeful.

- © Fairfax NZ News

This young JUDOKA needs help from the JUDO community, please send well wishes or if possible a donation to help Yuichi Tanimura.

To get info on where to send well wishes or your donation contact the New Zealand Judo Federation.

To help 17-year old YUICHI TANIMURA please see info below.

New Zealand Judo Federation Inc.

New Zealand Judo Federation Inc.
 nzlflag NZL 




  Postal address:





David Browne

P.O.  Box 5370, Wellesley St, Auckland 1141, New Zealand

+64 9 303 1996                    Fax:  +64 9 426 4378

+64 21 722 884



SOURCE: stuff.co.nz

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