"These legendary names are responsible for helping to take the sport to new heights in their respective countries, achieving what many though were unachievable feats, and their success is a testament to their character, self-discipline, honesty and integrity, which are all core values of judo. Their skills and experiences will be passed on to future generations and their accomplishments will live forever in judo's great history."
Marius Vizer, IJF President
Amar Benikhlef – Algeria
Amar Benikhlef is a four-time African champion and having won a total of seven continental medals, he was the silver medallist at the 2007 Pan-African Games in front of a home crowd in Algiers.
He won the silver medal at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games, losing to then world champion, Georgia’s Irakli Tsirekidze, in the final.
Benikhlef is now regularly present on the international circuit as a coach of Algeria’s national team.
Jane Bridge – Great Britain
Jane Bridge is known for being the first woman in history to become world judo champion. She won that first world crown in the under-48 kilograms category in 1980 in New York City.
Throughout her career, Bridge won three European titles and various British Open and Dutch Open titles.
From 1993 to 1997, she coached the British women’s judo team.
Cho Min-Sun – South Korea
Cho Min-Sun evolved mainly in the women’s under-66 kilograms category, and then in that of under-70kg, but she claimed five national titles in five different weight classes.
She won a first bronze medal at under-48kg at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, but women’s judo was only a demonstration event.
Cho was finally crowned Olympic champion at under-66kg at Atlanta 1996.
During her career she also won two world titles with the first coming in 1993 in Canadian city Hamilton and the second in 1995 in Japanese prefecture Chiba.
Today, Cho is a university professor in Seoul and travels the world with the International Judo Federation World Judo Tour as an international referee.
Nicolas Gill – Canada
Nicolas Gill was particularly successful at major international competitions, including the Olympic Games and World Championships.
At the end of his sports career in 2005, he became coach of the Canadian national team and also holds the position of high-performance director.
During a particularly prolific career, he won the Canadian Championships on 10 occasions.
He won a first Olympic medal at Barcelona 1992, taking bronze in the men’s under-86 kilograms category.
Eight years later, he won under-100kg silver in Sydney, losing to Japanese legend Inoue Kosei in the final.
In total, Gill participated in four Olympic Games and also won one silver and two bronze world medals.
Mark Huizinga – The Netherlands
Mark Huizinga won the gold medal in the men’s under-90 kilograms class at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, defeating Brazil’s Carlos Honorato by ippon.
He took bronze at the Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004 Olympics.
Huizinga’s illustrious honours list also includes five European Championships titles, for a total of 12 continental medals, and a bronze medal at the 2005 World Championships.
He also triumphed at the Military World Championships on eight occasions.
Flagbearer of the Dutch team at Athens 2004, Huizinga retired after Beijing 2008 and is now regularly present on the international circuit as an International Judo Federation expert, and actively participates in the IJF Academy, transmitting his incredible knowledge to coaches around the world.
Nazim Huseynov – Azerbaijan
Nazim Huseynov excelled in the under-60 kilograms category.
A double European champion and world silver medallist, he participated in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games and having qualified for the final, he defeated South Korea’s Yoon Hyun.
Becoming Azerbaijan’s first Olympic champion after the independence of his country, Huseynov is a living legend and sporting idol in his country.
He developed a love for the sport from his childhood and it was after watching a film about Japan’s Yasuhiro Yamashita, one of the most successful judo competitors of all time, that he decided to take it up.
From his early years, Huseynov showed predispositions for judo and it is under the colours of the USSR that he won his first two European titles.
Today, he is the coach of the Azerbaijan team, which includes Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists Rustam Orujov and Elmar Gasimov, and 2007 world champion Elkhan Mammadov among others.
Rena “Rusty” Kanokogi – United States
Rena “Rusty” Kanokogi was a renowned American judo expert.
In 1959, disguised as a man, she won a medal at a YMCA judo tournament, but had to return it after acknowledging that she was a woman.
Travelling to Japan to continue her judo training, Kanokogi became the first woman allowed to train in the men’s group at the Kodokan, the headquarters of the worldwide judo community, in Tokyo.
She is perhaps best known for pioneering women’s judo competition at the Olympic Games.
In 1980, Kanokogi organised the first women’s World Championships in Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum, which is now known as Hulu Theater.
She sponsored it through the mortgage of her own home and was the driving force behind the introduction of women’s judo as a demonstration event at the Seoul 1988 Olympics.
At Seoul 1988, Kanokogi was coach of the first United States Olympic women’s judo team.
She would coach her personal student Margaret Castro to a bronze medal in the over-72 kilograms division.
In 1991, Kanokogi was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
At Athens 2004, Kanokogi was a commentator for NBC’s coverage of judo and in 2008, she was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, 4th Class, one of Japan’s highest civilian honours.
She died on November 21, 2009, aged 74.
Antal Kovács – Hungary
Antal Kovács is the most successful Hungarian judoka of all time and is a national hero.
He had won only two bronze medals at previous junior and senior European Championships when he won the gold medal at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games in the men’s under-95 kilograms category at the age of 19.
The following year, Kovács confirmed his supremacy by winning gold at the World Championships in Hamilton in Canada.
He found his way back to the international podiums in 2001, winning a silver medal at the World Championships in Munich, behind Japan’s Inoue Kosei.
Kovács is the first Hungarian judoka to triumph at the Olympic Games and World Championships.
Kye Sun-Hui – North Korea
Kye Sun-Hui had a particularly successful career and won three medals in three different weight categories at the Olympic Games.
At Atlanta 1996, at just 16, she won the women’s under-48 kilograms gold medal by beating Japan’s Ryoko Tamura in the final.
She could participate in the Games thanks to the wildcard system, which made her victory one of the biggest surprises in Olympic history.
Kye, on that occasion, became the youngest Olympic judo champion in history.
Four years later at the Sydney Olympics, she won bronze in the under-52kg category and completed her collection with the under-57kg silver medal at Athens 2004.
In addition to her Olympic podium finishes, Kye claimed four World Championship titles.
Anis Lounifi – Tunisia
Anis Lounifi is a legend of Tunisian and African sport.
He competed in the men’s under-60 kilograms category and made his breakthrough by becoming the first African world judo champion in 2001 in Munich, where he defeated Belgium’s Cedric Taymans in the final.
The same year, Lounifi triumphed at the Mediterranean Games in his hometown.
He tasted victory at the African Championships in 2001 and 2002, and confirmed his talent by claiming a bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships in Osaka in Japan.
At the end of his career, Lounifi became a national coach and he is still working on the advent of a new generation of high-level judoka who will shine in the colours of Tunisia and Africa internationally.
Elnur Mammadli – Azerbaijan
During his career, Elnur Mammadli shone in the men’s under-73 kilograms and under-81kg categories.
It was in the former that he won the Olympic title at Beijing 2008.
Having been crowned cadet European champion in 2004 in Rotterdam, it did not take long for Mammadli to confirm his potential in the senior division.
From the beginning of 2005, he claimed several medals at the European tournaments of Moscow and Budapest.
In 2006, at the age of 17, Mammadli became a European champion.
He competed for the first time at a World Championships in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, where he lost to South Korea’s Wang Ki-chun in the final, but secured qualification for Beijing 2008.
Mammadli met Wang again in the Beijing 2008 final, winning by ippon after only a few seconds to become just the fourth Olympic champion in the history of Azeri sport and the only one at that particular Games.
He is now vice-president of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation.
Felice Mariani – Italy
Felice Mariani participated in the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games and won the lightweight bronze medal.
He was the first Italian to win an Olympic medal in judo.
Mariani also competed at Los Angeles 1984.
He first appeared in the international limelight in 1974, when at the age of 20 he triumphed at the European Junior Championships.
The following year, Mariani won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Vienna.
In all, he won three bronze medals at the World Championships and three consecutive European titles from 1978 to 1980.
Mariani also claimed two golds and one silver at the Mediterranean Games and three golds and a bronze at the World Military Championships.
Furthermore, he won five Italian titles.
After retirement, Mariani became coach of the Italian national team and led Giulia Quintavalle to sensational Olympic gold medal in the women’s under-57 kilograms class at Beijing 2008.
Hesham Mesbah – Egypt
Hesham Mesbah distinguished himself in the men’s under-90kg category.
Having been on the podium at the African Championships several times since 2001, Mesbah finished fifth at the World Championships organised for the first time in Egypt and on the African continent in 2005.
He also came fifth at the 2007 World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
In 2008, at his second Olympic Games, Mesbah secured the bronze medal by beating France’s Yves Matthieu Dafreville.
He won Egypt’s second Olympic medal in judo, 24 years after Mohamed Ali Rashwan, had claimed silver at Los Angeles 1984.
Jimmy Pedro – United States
James “Jimmy” Pedro is a retired American judo competitor who won multiple Olympic and World Championship medals.
He was first successful in the junior categories, obtaining a bronze medal at the World Championships held in French city Dijon in 1990.
The following year, Pedro shined in the senior category by winning two bronze medals at the Pan American Games and at the World Championships in Barcelona.
Selected for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, he failed to reach the podium, but at Atlanta 1996, he won the men’s under-71 kilograms bronze medal.
Pedro won another bronze medal in 1995, at the World Championships in Japanese prefecture Chiba.
Four years later, he claimed World Championship gold in Birmingham, England.
After taking a break from competition, Pedro returned to his best level in 2004, winning a second Olympic bronze medal at the Athens Games in the under-73kg category. Since retiring, Pedro has been transmitting his knowledge and discovering new talents.
Hitoshi Saito – Japan
Hitoshi Saito became the first Japanese judoka to become a double Olympic gold medallist as he won the title in the heavyweight category, previously over-95 kilograms, at Los Angeles1984 and Seoul 1988.
He began judo at school and in 1974 was spotted by Kokushikan Junior High School in Tokyo.
In 1983, Saito won the open tournament at the World Championships in Moscow.
After his sporting career, Saito worked as a lecturer and coach at Kokushikan University.
He was also very active in the Japan Judo Federation, coaching the Japan team at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
Saito died on January 20, 2015, aged 54.
Ayumi Tanimoto – Japan
Ayumi Tanimoto is a Japanese judoka who distinguished herself in the women’s under-63 kilograms category.
A junior and senior world silver medallist, she won the gold medal at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
The first major international appearance for Tanimoto was at the World Junior Championships in Tunisian town Nabeul in 2000.
She was beaten in the final by France’s Lucie Décosse, who would remain one of her main rivals throughout her career.
In 2001, Tanimoto won bronze at the World Championships in Munich.
Four years later, she was defeated in the World Championships final by Décosse, but she took revenge in the Beijing 2008 gold medal match.
Tanimoto retired in 2010 and now serves as a coach.
She is also a member of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.
Ronaldo Veitia Valdivie – Cuba
Ronaldo Veitia Valdivie is the former coach of the Cuban Olympic judo team.
He led the country’s women’s side to multiple Olympic medals and World Championships.
Ronaldo was also responsible for the team winning consecutive gold medals at the Pan American Games since 1975.
His players Dayaris Mestre Alvarez, Magdiel Estrada and Idalys Ortiz all won gold for Cuba under him.
In fact, Ronaldo coached his team at six Olympic Games from 1992 to 2012 and claimed five gold, nine silver and 10 bronze medals.
This made him the coach with the largest amount of Olympic medals in the history of judo.
In 30 years, Ronaldo earned 308 international medals in judo.
Having travelled the world, he today enjoys his retirement with his family in his homeland of Cuba.
Xian Dongmei – China
Xian Dongmei is a Chinese judoka who was competing in the women’s under-52 kilograms category.
She won two Olympic titles, claiming gold at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 in front of a home crowd.
In 2004, Xian made her first appearances at major European qualifying tournaments for that year’s Olympics, winning in Paris and Hamburg before going onto secure victory at the Games themselves.
She was also known for winning a gold medal at the 2001 Summer Universiade, and silver at the 2002 Asian Games.
Xian returned to Europe in January 2008 for a tournament in Paris, which she won just a few months before claiming her second Olympic title in Beijing.
She is now President of the Chinese Judo Association.
Ilham Zakiyev - Azerbaijan
Ilham Zakiyev started judo at the age of 11.
On February 4, 1999, at the age of 18, while serving in the army and being stationed on the front line, he was shot and lost his eyesight.
After a very long recovery, Zakiyev returned to the tatami as a Paralympic athlete.
It is in this discipline that he quickly distinguished himself by becoming Paralympic champion in the men’s over-100 kilograms weight division at Athens 2004 and again at Beijing 2008.
A multiple gold medallist at the European Championships, Zakiyev is also a two-time world champion, making him Azerbaijan’s most successful athlete and a role model for the country.
Still active after winning the bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, he is preparing to compete at his fifth Games at Tokyo 2020.
Haruki Uemura - Japan
Kodokan President Haruki Uemura has reached the summit of our sport as a judoka and an educator. Uemura won the All Japan Championships in 1973 which earned him a berth at the World Championships in the same year where he earned a silver medal. Two years later he achieved a masterful double as he won the All Japan Championships and World Championsips with a year to go until the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Japan led from the front in Canada as Uemura was one of his country’s three gold medallists.
Following his distinguished career, the Kumamoto native served as President of the All Japan Judo Federation and a board member of the IJF. Today, Uemura leads the sport’s true home of the Kodokan in Tokyo in every sense of the word, as a teacher, spokesman, motivator and judoka of the highest regard.
Yasuhiro Yamashita - Japan
Yasuhiro Yamashita will forever be associated with greatness. Yamashita possessed a will to win and a skillset which was unparalleled as he won 203 consecutive matches between 1977 and 1985. During that time the Tokai University talisman won four World Championships and the Olympic gold medal at tLos Angeles 1984.
Off the tatami, Yamashita is an unassuming, modest figure who, having refuted lucrative overtures outside of judo after his competitive career, retained all his desire for judo excellence and is a regular instructor for Tokai’s current crop of athletes, as well as a source of inspiration for recreational and competitive judoka the world around.
Yamashita, who, as manager of the Japanese team, was seen cleaning up the warm up area at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, now serves as the President of the All Japan Judo Federation.
Yamashita once said: “If they could see on my face what I feel in my heart, no one would ever fight me.”
Ki-Young Jeon – South Korea
South Korean hero Ki-Young Jeon mastered his craft and won the hearts of his nation who regard him as their greatest champion. Ki-Young was an unstoppable force in the 1990s as he won three consecutive World Championships in 1993, 1995, 1997 and ruled the world on the greatest stage of all, the Olympic Games, in Atlanta in 1996.
With his nation expectant and all eyes fixed on the favourite, Ki-Young was at his precocious best, winning all his fights by ippon with the exception of his opening contest against the Dutchman Mark Huizinga, who went on to rule the category after his conqueror retired.
Ki-Young called time on his fighting days in 1997 as the reigning world champion and since then has worked with the national teams of Singapore and South Korea, as well as being a sought after guest coach in every continent.
Ki-Young is now a Professor at the acclaimed Yong-In University in South Korea and is an IJF Sports Director and Referee supervisor.
Shota Chochishvili - Georgia
Shota Chochishvili fought for the former Soviet Union and at the age of 22 was crowned Olympic champion at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Hailing from Ghvlevi in the K’arelis Raioni region – which today is part of Georgia – Chochishvili was an unknown when he entered his first Games, lacking experience of top level competition and the high-profile stage, but 1972 changed everything as he unceremoniously eliminated the top names in the category one-by-one until he surpassed David Starbook of Britain in the final.
Chochishvili followed up by winning three consecutive European Championships silver medals and one world bronze medal before returning to the Olympic stage in 1976. After returning to the Olympic podium with a bronze medal and a European bronze a year later, Chochishvili, whose image was proudly on show at the 2015 Tbilisi Grand Prix, announced his retirement. Ramaz Chochishvili continued the legacy of his father as he won three European bronze medals as a member of the Georgian team.
Shota Chochishvili passed away at the age of 59 on August 27, 2009 from leukaemia. His son Ramaz Chochishvili, pictured, collected the hall of fame award on his father’s behalf.
Dr Karen Briggs MBE – Britain
Dubbed a ‘pocket-sized’ fighting machine in the British media, Hull-born Karen Briggs was equally adept on her feet and on the ground. Briggs, who won four World Championships in the 1980s, was crowned world champion for the first time in 1982 at the age of 18. The all-action fighter moulded herself into an all-time great as she successfully defended her world title in 1984, 1986 and 1989.
The British battler, who was a treasured talent destined for the greatest stage, was granted that opportunity when women’s judo was accepted onto the Olympic programme in 1992. Briggs retired after a fifth-place finish in Barcelona and now runs her own judo club in England and leads an active network of judo schools. Briggs was promoted to 8th Dan in June 2015.
Driulis Gonzalez Morales - Cuba
Every competitive judoka shares the ultimate ambition of one day representing their country at an Olympic Games. Only a minority, the most disciplined and deserving, accomplish their goal. Cuba’s Driulis Gonzalez Morales walked into five Olympic Opening Ceremonies in her remarkable career and on four occasions came away with a medal – only IJF Hall of Famer Tani (born Tamura) Ryoko has won more with five to her name. In 1996, after a lifetime of hard work and sacrifices, Cuba’s reigning world champion became Olympic champion in Atlanta.
The three-time world champion had graced an Olympic podium for the first time in 1992 and repeated that result in 2004 with a silver in Sydney 2000 following her 1996 triumph. Driulis Gonzalez was Cuba’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony of the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil and promptly secured her third Pan American Games gold medal.
Gella Vandecaveye – Belgium
Seven-time European champion Gella Vandecaveye won honours at every level during a decade as one of the sport’s most prolific performers. The revered Belgian won her first world title in 1993 and between then and her next world crown in 2001, Vandecaveye dominated her continent as the accolades accumulated including the 1999 European Judoka of the Year award.
The Olympic Games was also blessed with the talents of Vandecaveye as she captured silver in 1996 and four years later won bronze to seal her legacy and place among the upper echelons of her country’s finest Olympians.
Soraya Haddad - Algeria
Algeria’s Soraya Haddad won medals for her country on the biggest stages in judo. The multiple-time African champion brought notoriety to Algeria when she stepped up to succeed at world level in 2005 with a bronze medal at the World Championships. That result gave the highly-popular fighter the belief to perform to the best of her ability at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and win a heroic bronze medal for her country. More accolades followed including Grand Prix victories and Grand Slam and World Masters medals as Haddad became one of the leading names in the early years of the IJF World Judo Tour.
Haddad is now a coach in her native El-Kseur where she is committed to nurturing the next generation of judokas for Algeria.
Maria Pekli - Australia
Five-time Olympian Maria Pekli made history in 2000 which reverberated around the world when she became the first Australian woman to win an Olympic judo medal since women’s judo officially joined the Olympic programme in 1992. The Australian judoka of Hungarian descent won bronze in Sydney and won Commonwealth Games gold in Manchester 2002.
In 2008 Pekli joined Cuba’s Driulis Gonzalez and Japan’s Tani (born Tamura) Ryoko as the first female judoka to compete at five Olympic Games, with two appearences for her native Hungary and three for her adopted Australia.
In 2011, Pekli, a winner of seven national titles in a row, was awarded Lifetime Membership of Judo Australia for her contribution to the sport at the Australian National Judo Championships.
George Kerr - Scotland
Edinburgh's living legend George Kerr is one of the most decorated and respected sportsmen in the history of British sport.
Kerr was awarded his 10th Dan (Judan) by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for international services to judo in 2010 after a fairytale career which included European Championship honours, top-class refereeing and guiding Peter Seisenbacher to two Olympic gold medals.
The scot became President of the British Judo Association in 2001 and a year later was named as one of the inaugural members of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours and also received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, after being named in Emperor Akihito's November 2010 honours list.
Franco Capelletti - Italy
Franco Capelletti is one of the most lauded names in Italian judo and shares a lifetime of judo experience.
The renowned 10th Dan (Kyudan) retains a strong connection to the grassroots level of the sport as President of his highly-respected club, Judo Club Capelletti, which he formed in 2002.
The famed Italian has recruited and trained specialised teachers to the club, including his son Fabio.
Peter Seisenbacher - Austria
Shortly after competing at Moscow 1980, Seisenbacher made a three-month visit to Japan and in the words of his coach George Kerr he "came back a different fighter". The Vienna-born standout also won gold medals at the 1985 World Championships and 1986 European Championships.
Seisenbacher has followed the path of his mentor and has already enjoyed similar success as a coach. The former under-86kg star was head coach of the Georgian team at London 2012 when Lasha Shavdatuashvili won the under-66kg gold medal.
Kosei Inoue - Japan
Japanese hero Kosei Inoue won admirers around the world during his competitive career.
The much-admired judoka won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and celebrated three World Championships triumphs during a glittering career. After retiring Inoue embarked on a trip to Britain on behalf of the Japanese Olympic Committee and was a well-received guest in Edinburgh, where he stayed for six months, and then in London where he spent a year at The Budokwai, following a long-standing tradition of Japanese greats coaching at Europe's oldest continuously running club.
Inoue is now the head coach of the Japanese team and firmly remains one of the most popular figures in the sport.
The imposing Frenchman dominated heavyweight judo for close to a decade as he won honours on every stage. A physical specimen who boasted finesse and power, Douillet won Olympic gold at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 and won four World Championship titles along with four European Championship medals.
Through his illustrious career he worked tirelessly to promote numerous charitable organisations and was held in high regard by his peers. After retiring Douillet established himself in politics with roles such as Minister of Sport and has worked as a television personality in France.
Ezio Gamba - Italy
Four-time Olympian Ezio Gamba was one of the world's leading judoka in the 1980's as he translated continental honours into world and Olympic medals.
The Brescia native won an Olympic gold medal at Moscow 1980 and took silver four years later in Los Angeles. The under-71kg star won senior European medals, including gold in 1982, and came away with two senior world medals in 1979 and 1983 repetitively as he prepared for his Olympic challenge.
Gamba's greatest triumph came at Moscow 1980 and now over three decades later he plies his trade with the Russian team as head coach.
The humble Italian masterminded Russia's success at London 2012 as they topped the medal table and is guiding them towards major milestones. Gamba also acts as as the European Judo Union general secretary.
Thierry Rey - France
Four-time European medallist Thierry Rey followed up on his 1979 World Championships gold by winning gold for France at 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.
In 1983, he memorably became European champion at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris before retiring a year later. In 2007, Rey became President of the judo section for Lagardére Paris Racing, having been responsible for the Paris region for several years and in 2008 become the director of elite sports development for Lagardére Paris Racing and Team Lagardére.
A prominent columnist and television personality, Rey remains an influential member of the judo family in his homeland.
Jean-Luc Rougé - France
For all the great judo champions France has produced, Jean-Luc Rougé will forever hold the honour of being the country's first world champion.
The four-time European champion helped to shape the sport as a pioneering athlete and after retiring helped to steer the French Judo Federation into becoming one of the most prosperous and visible national judo federations in the world. Jan-Luc Rougé was elected as President of the French Judo Federation in 2005 and in 2011 was elected as general secretary of the IJF and has been integral to the success of both organisations. His insatiable passion for the sport and history-making exploits as a world-renowned judoka led the Frenchman to share the secrets to his famed harai-goshi in a highly-popular book.
Patrick Hickey - Ireland
Patrick Hickey once said that he owes his life in sport to judo. The Irish sports administrator represented his country on the tatmi before going on to fulfil numerous key roles in the Olympic Movement.
In 1989, Hickey became Honorary Life President of the Irish Judo Association and President of the Olympic Council of Ireland and was Chef de Mission for his country at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
Robert van de Walle - Belgium
Every athlete dreams of competing at an Olympic Games. Robert van de Walle accomplished that feat five times and was the first judoka to do so. He won gold in 1980 which earned him the Belgian Sportsperson of the Year accolade and eight years later came to the fore again to win bronze in 1988.
The Ostend-born judoka competed in the -95kg and openweight categories and with over a decade at the top of the sport he left his mark as an all-time great.
The Belgian won seven senior World Championship medals and an astonishing 17 senior European Championship medals including two gold.
Mohamed Ali Rashwan - Egypt
Two-time world silver medallist Mohamed Ali Rashwan exuded judo's core values of honour, respect and integrity.
In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic openweight final the Egyptian famously avoided targeting the injured right calf of his opponent Yasuhiro Yamashita and had to settle for silver. Ali Rashwan won an international fair play award for his conduct and the everlasting respect of his compatriots and the Japanese fans.
His Olympic result inspired him to win back-to-back world silver medals in 1985 and 1987 in South Korea and West Germany respectively.
Ali Rashwan retired from competing in 1992 and is now a top-class international referee and key member of the Egyptian Judo Federation.
Ryoko Tani - Japan
Tani (née Tamura) Ryoko became the first female judoka to compete at five Olympic Games. Tani won a medal at all five Games including gold in 2000 and 2004 in Sydney and Athens respectively.
The seven-time world champion was unbeaten in major competitions between Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008 and her unparalleled success saw her become the most popular judoka on the planet.
After retiring Tani entered politics and was a member of the Democratic Party between 2010 and 2012.
The Japanese star was one of the most dominant judoka the sport has seen and is widely regarded as the greatest female judoka of all time.
Ingrid Berghmans - Belgium
Belgium's Ingrid Berghmans possessed a talent that belonged on the sport's greatest stage.
Berghmans had the opportunity to compete at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games when women's judo was a demonstration sport and she won gold.
The eight-time Belgian Sportswoman of the Year won an incredible 11 world medals including six gold between 1980 and 1989. The Belgian ace ruled Europe seven times and won four silver and three bronze medals as the most accomplished judoka in the -72kg category.
Vladimir Nevzorov - Russia
Vladimir Nevzorov captured the Olympic title at the age of 23 as he won the -70kg category at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Nevzorov entered the 1976 Olympics as the world champion and European champion and completed an incredible treble which cemented his legacy.
Nevzorov, who also won national and European sambo honours, went on to win another European crown before retiring and moving into coaching. After spells with the Soviet national team and France, Nevzorov was head coach for the 2000 Russian Olympic judo team and later became vice-president of the Russian Judo Federation.
Willem Ruska - Netherlands
The world-renowned Dutchman became the only judoka to win two gold medals at the same Olympic Games as he won the heavyweight and openweight categories at the 1972 Munich Games.
Ruska captured the world title in 1967 and 1971 in the heavyweight category with an openweight silver medal to show for his 1969 appearance.
During an illustrious career the 10-time Dutch national champion ruled Europe seven times and won three silver and two bronze medals.
Ruska retired after the 1972 Munich Games having captured every title in the sport and etching his name into the history books.
Aurelio Fernandez Miguel - Brazil
Aurelio Fernandez Miguel stamped his name on the sport by winning -95kg gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
A seven-time Pan American champion, the Brazilian judoka would show the world that he was one of the finest judoka in the sport with success on the sport's greatest stage. Miguel won a second Olympic medal eight years after his first as he took bronze at Atlanta 1996. The following year he claimed silver at the World Championships in Paris, the third world medal of his career with one bronze and one silver already to his name.
After retiring, he moved into politics in his native Sao Paulo in 2004 and was re-elected for the city council in 2008 under the banner of the Republic Party.
Héctor Rodríguez Torres - Cuba
The Cuban trailblazer earned the nickname "The Volcano of Montreal" when he won -63kg gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
Rodriguez became the first Cuban judoka to win Olympic gold and the first non-Japanese judoka to win the lightest category in Olympic judo.
The 1973 world bronze medallist paved the way for young Cubans to follow his path and was integral to the continued development of the sport in his country.
After retiring, Rodríguez coached the national team and led his charges to World Youth Championships success before moving on to work in a High Performance Centre in Madrid. Rodríguez is a member of the Panamerican Judo Union's Hall of Fame.
Neil Adams - Great Britain
Neil Adams, the first British male to win a world title, is the most decorated and celebrated British judoka of all time.
Adams won back-to-back Olympic silver medals at the 1980 and 1984 Games in Moscow and Los Angeles respectively. In 1981 he became the first Briton to simultaneously hold a European and world title.
As a talent for the ages to marvel at the four-time senior world medallist won eight medals the senior European Championships, including five gold.
After a remarkable career which saw him become as popular in Japan as we was in Britain, Adams started a coach education business and was an in demand coach with spells as head coach for the Welsh Judo Association and a national coach in Belgium.
Adams is currently a commentator and technical advisor for the IJF and the director of elite coaching for the British Judo Association.
Anton Geesink - Netherlands
Anton Geesink was a world-renowned 10th Dan from the Netherlands who was known as a gentle giant off the tatmi.
To great fanfare Geesink showed the world that Japan were beatable as he won the openweight title at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games while the three other categories were all won by Japanese judoka.
Geesink won 21 senior European Championship gold medals and in 1961 became the first non-Japanese World Champion. The Dutchman retired in 1967 and became a member of the Board of the Dutch National Olympic Committee and later the IOC.
His native city of Utrecht honoured him with a statue in the centre of the city in 1995 and in 1997 he was awarded the coveted 10th Dan by the IJF. Further honours followed including the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government and in 2000 he received an honorary doctorate by Kokushikan University.
A street in Utrecht was named after him and Geesink lived there until his death in August 2010.
Charles Palmer - Great Britain
Charles Palmer is fondly recalled as the "father of modern judo".
A talented judoka who once captained the British team, Palmer would go on to change the course of the sport after retiring from competition. In 1961, the flamboyant Briton was elected chairman of the British Judo Association, a post which he held for the next 24 years. In 1965, he was elected as the first non-Japanese President of the IJF.
He was appointed OBE in 1973, and was awarded the Key of the City of Taipei in 1974 and the Key of the City in Seoul in 1981.
In 1983, he was elected as chairman of the British Olympic Association (BOA) and fulfilled that role until 1988. In 1999, he was awarded his 10th Dan by the IJF to widespread acclaim. Palmer died aged 71 in 2001.