The passing of double Olympic Champion Hitoshi Saito
Very sad news for Japanese judo. Double Olympic Champion Hitoshi Saito passed away today due to gallbladder cancer of the liver at the age of 54 years.
Saito was one of the best ever judokas in the world. He won the Olympic titles in 1984 and 1988, both in the heavyweight category.
He was world champion in 1983 in the open class, while his compatriot and rival Yasuhiro Yamashita won the title in the plus category and in 1984 Yamashita won the open Olympic title.
They led a new era in Japan with the dominance in the men’s heavyweight classes together with Yasuhiro Yamashita. Saito was a successful coach for years and led the team to many world and Olympic titles.
Saito, who became chairman of the training committee with the All Japan Judo Federation in 2012, had been hospitalized in poor health since late last year.
Born in Aomori city, Saito took up judo when he was a first-year student at junior high school.
He was recognized as world-class material when he attended Kokushikan University, a Tokyo school known for spawning a number of top-level judoka. After graduating from the university, Saito won the openweight division at the World Championships in 1983.
After Yamashita retired from competition, Saito reached the pinnacle of the Japanese judo world by winning the openweight category at the All-Japan Judo Championships in 1988.
The same year, he defended his heavyweight title at Seoul Olympics, continuing Japan’s streak of picking up a judo gold in every Olympics since 1964 Tokyo Games.
More VIDEOS HERE
After retiring in 1989, Saito continued his winning ways by managing the Japanese men’s national team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The Japanese men took home three gold medals from Athens.
Watch his major performances HERE:
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photo credits to Asami Shimbum photo archive
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