By Duncan Mackay in Moscow

Vladimir Putin with judo coachAugust 7 - Anatoly Rakhlin, vice-president of the Russian Judo Federation but better known as the man who coached Vladimir Putin in the sport, has died at the age of 75, it was announced here today.

He had reportedly been ill for some time.

Rakhlin had met Putin in 1964 when he introduced him to judo at the age of 12 and had such a close relationship with him that the Russian President described him as "a second father".

They worked together for 15 years and the two remained friends, with Putin even inviting Rakhlin to a private lunch the day after his inauguration as Russian President for the first time in 2000. 

The President has remained a keen student of the sport and even co-authored a book and an instructional DVD called "Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin".

Vladimir Putin playing judoVladimir Putin has continued to take part in judo after being introduced to the sport as a youngster by coach Anatoly Rakhlin, who has died at the age of 75

Putin posted message on the Russian Presidential website, Putin saying he was deeply saddened by Rakhlin's death, "a big, irreplaceable loss for all of us."

Rakhlin was greatly respected and loved by his colleagues, friends and students; he was a "real teacher and attentive mentor both in sports and in life," Putin said.

In a 50-year career, Rakhlin trained several leading figures in the Russian elite, including billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg and Putin's political ally Vasily Shestakov, both of whom were sparring partners of the President.

He had also been the coach and manager of Russia's women's team for several years. 

At the time of his death, Rakhlin had been running a youth sports academy in St. Petersburg.

Putin presented Rakhlin with a "medal of honour" for his achievements in Russian judo on the coach's 75th birthday last May.

Contact the writer of this story at duncan[email protected]