Wednesday, December 09, 2009

mother of judo

Rena "Rusty" Kanokogi, known as the "Mother of Judo" partly for her role in bringing women's judo to the Olympic Games, has died. She was 74. Rena "Rusty" Kanokogi introduced women's judo to the Olympic Games and coached and refereed in the sport for years. Her daughter, Jean Kanokogi, said she died Saturday at Lutheran Medical Center in New York following a three-year battle with leukemia.

Rusty Kanokogi competed in judo against men in the 1950s and helped create the first Women's World Judo Championships, which were held in 1980 in New York City.

"Rusty was the Gloria Steinem of judo, and women's judo would not be where it is today without her relentless efforts," Corinne Shigemoto, the U.S. team's coach at the 1996 Olympics, said in a USA Judo statement on Sunday.

Kanokogi coached the U.S. women's judo team at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea in 1988 -- the year the sport was added to the Games, according to Colorado Springs, Colo.-based USA Judo. She worked as a judo commentator for NBC during the network's coverage of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Jean Kanokogi said her mother worked hard to provide opportunities for women to compete in judo after she was stripped of a gold medal she won at the 1959 New York State YMCA Judo Championships. Women weren't allowed to compete.

Jean Kanokogi said her mother had very short hair and wore a T-shirt that flattened her breasts. She never told YMCA competition officials that she was a man when she competed with the Brooklyn Central YMCA team.

"Her coach said, 'Don't bring any attention. Just pull a draw," Jean Kanokogi said. "I guess she couldn't help herself and she beat the guy."

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