Ryoko Tamura life and biography

Ryoko Tamura picture, image, poster

Ryoko Tamura biography

Date of birth : 1975-09-06
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Fukuoka, Japan
Nationality : Japanese
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-06-20
Credited as : Judo athlete, Olympic athlete, Judo champion

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Ryoko Tamura born September 6, 1975 in Fukuoka, Japan is a Japanese judo athlete .

Women's judo champion Ryoko Tamura was the dominant athlete in her weight class (under 48 kg/106 lbs) for over a decade. A popular personality in her native Japan, Tamura was known for her quickness and skill despite her small size (about 4'8" and 99 lbs.). She won at least 11 straight Fukuoka Cup International Women's Judo championships, six world championships, and two silver medals and one gold medal at three Summer Olympics.

Won Upset International Victory

Tamura was born on September 6, 1975, in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew up in Tama, Japan. She had an older brother who began learning judo, which introduced her to the sport. Tamura wanted to learn the sport--which was a form of one-on-one wrestling-like combat that used holds, balance and timing, and was judged like boxing--but had to convince her mother that the sport was not too rough for her. She finally began training when she was eight years old, and won her first tournament four months later by beating five boys.

Tamura continued to train throughout her childhood, and became a big international sensation when she was 15 years old. In her hometown of Fukuoka, Japan's biggest women's tournament, the Fukuoka Cup, was held. At the 1990 tournament, Tamura scored an upset win over Karen Briggs, a British star and one of Tamura's childhood heroes. The following year, Briggs got her revenge by defeating Tamura in the semi-finals of the world championships. Though this forced Tamura to improve her technique and mat work, she was already a rising star in Japan.

Won Silver at Olympics

By the 1992 Summer Olympics at Barcelona, Spain, Tamura was confident she could win Olympic gold. This was the first time women's judo was included as an Olympic sport. She defeated Briggs on the way to the gold medal match, but lost to France's Cecile Novak to end with a silver medal. The defeat again forced Tamura to change her strategy, at least in international matches. In Japan, she went for the ippon (like a knockout) which often gave her a victory. But, this strategy did not work in international competition, because judo was a judged sport, not unlike boxing, and Tamura began going for moves that earned her points.

This change paid off. After her Barcelona defeat, Tamura won at least 84 consecutive matches, until the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. She continued to win the Fukuoka Cup, and won her first World Judo Championship in 1993. Tamura accomplished all this while still attending school. In 1994, she graduated from Fukuoka, Japan, then entered Teikyo University, which was planning on founding a judo club. Tamura was also becoming a public figure in Japan, with a number of high-profile sponsors and product endorsement deals.

When Tamura went to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, she was the favorite to win the gold medal in her weight class. Though Tamura made it to the gold medal match, she lost to 16-year-old North Korean Kye Sun-Hi on points. After winning the silver again, Tamura was still considered the best and proved it by winning every match again between the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. She also held a job at Toyota in the late 1990s.

Won Olympic Gold

At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Tamura was again the favorite in her weight class. And, she finally won her Olympic gold medal by defeating her Russian opponent. Tamura also continued to win on the international stage. In 2001, she won her fifth straight world championship in Munich, Germany, repeating in 2003, when many of her Japanese teammates won.

Tamura hoped to repeat as the gold medallist in 2004 at the Athens Olympics and win a seventh straight world championship the following year. Of her take on the sport, Mark Law of the Daily Telegraph wrote, "Tamura's judo is stylish, inspired and technically brilliant."


Fukuoka Cup International Women's Judo Champion (under 106-lbs. division), 1990-circa 2001; World Champion Women's Judo (under 106-lbs. division), 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003; silver medal (Judo; under 106 lbs.-category), Summer Olympics, 1994, 1998; gold medal (Judo; under 106-lbs.-category), Summer Olympics, 2000.

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