Olympics A-Z

Olympics A to Z: A brief history of Judo at the mega event

Shaunak GhoshShaunak Ghosh

July 6 2021
(Courtesy : International Judo Federation)

Sushila Devi will be the only Indian Judoka participating at Tokyo 2020.

Judo was introduced into the Summer Olympics at the 1964 Olympics, held in Tokyo, Japan. It took place at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. The first few editions saw only male participants at the event. It was only in the 1988 edition when women first participated in Judo, however, only as a demonstration sport. Eventually, women’s Judo was added to the official Olympics program at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 

Judo has been a part of every Summer Olympics, except the 1968 Mexico. Notably, the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics will feature a mixed doubles event as well in Judo. Interestingly, the event will return to the same venue (Nippon Budokan) from where it started off. 


 In the first Olympic Judo event in Tokyo, 74 Judoka participated from 27 countries. Further, the participation grew to 473 Judoka from 92 countries at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 

A Judo event taking place at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Image: Olympic.com)

The Olympic weight classes have increased over the past editions. In the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, three weight categories were introduced along with the open category- Heavyweight (+80kg), Middleweight (68-80kg) and Lightweight (-68kg).  

It further expanded to six categories, along with the open category at the 1972 Olympics which rose to eight at the 1980 Games. 

In the 1992 Olympics, the open category was dropped off from the event. Consequently, there are currently seven weight classes for both men and women at the Olympics.  

Weight Classes 

There are seven weight classes for both men and women. Moreover, the upcoming Tokyo Olympics will feature mixed doubles for the very first time in Judo. This year, 386 Judokas (193 men, 193 women) from different countries will be competing in 15 events. 

The men’s categories will be, -60kg, -66kg, -73kg, -81kg, -90kg, -100kg, +100kg.

The women’s categories will be -48kg, -52kg, -57kg, -63kg, -70kg, -78kg, +78kg.

Mixed Team

This new event will include teams comprising of six athletes from different weight classes. 

  •  Three male judoka (-73kg, -90kg, and +90kg) 
  • Three female judoka (-57kg, -70kg, and +70kg) 

All the participants will have to compete in the individual competition first. There will be 12 different teams competing against one another. 

Strongest Countries

Judo has spread across the world after being introduced into the Olympics. Notably, in the 2016 Rio Olympics, 126 nations participated in the event. Interestingly, when Judo was first introduced in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Japan won all the gold medals in all weight classes except one. 

Over the years, Judo has become a popular sport in many European, Asian and South American countries. 

Interesting Trivia

Ryoko Tani is the most successful Olympic Judoka of all time (Image: Dictionnaire Creatrices)
  • Japenese female judoka, Ryoko Tamura-Tani has won a record five Olympic medals (two gold, two silver, one bronze) in the extra-lightweight (48 kg) class, the highest by any other Judoka (male or female). After her retirement, the International Judo Federation named her, ‘Best Female Judoka ever’. 
  • Japan is a dominant force in Judo as it has won a total of 84 Olympic medals (39 gold, 19 silver, 26 bronze), the maximum by any country. It is followed by France (49) and South Korea (43).
  • Nomura Tadahiro of Japan is the only judoka to win three Olympic gold medals in a row, all in the -60 kg category.

Top Judokas at the Tokyo Olympics 

Ono Shohei is the top contender in Judo at the Tokyo Olympics (Image: Japan Times)

Japan is most likely to win maximum medals at the Tokyo Games in front of the home crowd. Notably, at the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan topped the medals tally with 16, including five gold. France finished in second place with three gold medals. 

The reigning Olympic champion, Ono Shohei, will be the top medal contender in the -73 kg class. He will face competition from the Rio Olympics silver medalist, Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan.

Three-time world champion, Naohisa Takato will look to clinch the gold in Tokyo. The Japanese is the top ranked judoka in the -60kg class. 

Double Olympic gold medalist, Teddy Riner, will look to make history in the +100kg class by clinching a third consecutive gold. 

In the women’s categories, four-time world champion, Clarisse Agbegnenou of France will look to win the gold at the -63kg category. Notably, the French Judokas will pose to be a serious threat to the Japanese. 

Indian Judo at the Olympics

Sushila Devi is the only Indian judoka at the Tokyo Olympics

Sushila Devi is the only Indian Judoka to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. She will compete in the women’s extra-lightweight category. She earned the Olympic berth by claiming the continental quota as one of the two highest ranked Asians outside the top 18.

Previously, it was Lourembam Devi, Garima Chaudhary, Akram Shah, Avtar Singh, Narendra Singh and Cawas Bilimoria who represented India in Judo in different editions of the Olympics. However, India is yet to win an Olympic medal in the event.

Meanwhile, the Judo competition at the Tokyo Olympics is all set to take place between July 24 -31, 2021.

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