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Top 5 Iconic Olympic Ippons: Moments of Judo Mastery

Updated: Jun 27

Kayla Harrison Judo
Black Belt Plus

Judo, a martial art that exemplifies the principles of balance, leverage, and technique, has been an Olympic sport since the 1964 Tokyo Games. Among the many moves in judo, the ippon stands out as the epitome of skill—a perfectly executed maneuver that can instantly conclude a match with the highest score possible.

Over the decades, certain ippons have not only clinched victories but have also left an indelible mark on the sport's history. Here, we celebrate some of the most iconic Olympic ippons.

  1. Tadahiro Nomura’s Triple Olympic Triumph (1996, 2000, 2004)

Tadahiro Nomura of Japan remains a judo legend, the only judoka to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals. His impeccable seoi nage (shoulder throw) epitomized precision and speed, underlining his dominance. Nomura's skill in securing ippons at critical moments highlighted his exceptional dedication and expertise, setting a high bar for future competitions, including the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics.

  1. Yasuhiro Yamashita’s Triumph Through Adversity (1984)

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Yasuhiro Yamashita overcame a torn calf muscle to win gold. His defining moment came in the final against Mohamed Ali Rashwan, where he executed a large outer reap for an ippon, demonstrating his technical prowess and formidable spirit despite severe pain.

  1. Kosei Inoue’s Flawless Uchimata (2000)

Kosei Inoue, competing in the under 100 kg category at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, delivered one of the most stunning ippons ever seen on this stage. His uchimata (inner thigh throw) against Nicolas Gill was so perfectly executed that it remains a hallmark of judo technique, celebrated for its elegance and power.

  1. Kayla Harrison’s Dual Gold Feats (2012, 2016)

Kayla Harrison of the United States made history by winning back-to-back gold medals in 2012 and 2016, becoming the first American to achieve this in judo. Known for her ground techniques, Harrison secured several ippons through arm locks and pins, with a notable armlock in the 2012 final against Audrey Tcheumeo highlighting her tactical acumen and strength.

  1. Anton Geesink’s Landmark Victory (1964)

Dutch judoka Anton Geesink shattered barriers at the 1964 Tokyo Games by becoming the first non-Japanese judoka to win an Olympic gold in judo. His ippon against Akio Kaminaga via osaekomi (ground hold) in the open category final was not only a technical achievement but also a significant cultural moment, signaling judo's expanding global appeal.

These athletes, through their spectacular ippons, have transcended the sport, turning moments of competition into lasting legacies of excellence and inspiration in Olympic judo.

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