Nine new inductees were put into the IJF Hall of Fame at a glamorous gala ©IJF

Japan’s Haruki Uemura and Yasuhiro Yamashita were among nine new inductees into the International Judo Federation (IJF) Hall of Fame at a glamorous gala here tonight which celebrated the achievement of legends of the sport.

The venue itself had been transformed from the location of the IJF Congress, which took place here yesterday, but Uemura and Yamashita found themselves among the headline names again.

As having been elected onto the IJF Executive Committee yesterday, the Japanese pair were the first two announced in the Hall of Fame this evening, with both men receiving their awards from IJF President Marius Vizer.

Uemura was welcomed into the Hall of Fame for his contribution to the sport both as a judoka himself, having won World Championship gold at Vienna 1975 and Olympic gold the following year in Montreal, but also for his role as an educator of the sport.

His influence as both the President of the All Japan Judo Federation (AJJF) from 2009 to 2013 and his existing role as President of the Kodokan Judo Institute - billed as the home of the sport after it was founded there by Jigorō Kanō - were seen as key reasons for the 64-year-olds inclusion.

Uemura’s compatriot Yamashita’s glittering judo career, which included 203 consecutive wins from 1977 to 1985, was a clear reason for his induction as he ended his sporting career as one of the sports greats.

Having secured gold in the open division at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics and four World Championships titles, Yamashita became a regular instructor of young judokas and is currently vice-president of the AJJF.

Legendary Japanese judoka and new IJF Executive Committee member Yasuhiro Yamashita was one of the inductees
Legendary Japanese judoka and new IJF Executive Committee member Yasuhiro Yamashita was one of the inductees ©IJF
Another Asian judoka was also honoured at the ceremony, with the distinguished guests invited to reflect on the achievements of South Korea’s Ki-Yeon Jeon, who won three consecutive World Championship titles from 1993 to 1997 while also sealing Olympic gold in the under 86 kilogram division at Atlanta 1996.

The focus then shifted towards European judokas, with awards being handed out interspersed with musical interludes, and Georgia’s Shota Chochishvili became the fourth inductee of the evening.

Highlights of his career including his Olympic gold at the Munich 1972 Games, when he began the competition as an unknown, were displayed on screen as the delegates paid tribute to the judoka who died of leukaemia in 2009.

Four-time world champion Dr Karen Briggs of Britain, who enjoyed success in the 1980s, was followed into the Hall of Fame by a Gella Vandecaveye, with the Belgian clinching seven-European titles and two Olympic medals in the following decade.

A further three female judokas rounded off the awards for the evening, beginning with one of the sport’s most successful Olympic competitors in Driulis Gonzlaez Moreles of Cuba.

Moreles total of four Olympic medals, including gold at Atlanta 1996, is only bettered in women’s judo by 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Tani Ryoko of Japan, while the Cuban also secured three World and Pan American Games titles.

Five of the nine inductees into the Hall of Fame were women
Five of the nine inductees into the Hall of Fame were women ©ITG

Algeria’s Soraya Haddad was honoured for her role in becoming one of the most well-known African judokas after winning her country’s first World Championship medal by taking bronze in the under 52kg division at Cairo 2005, before repeating the feat at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

The final award of the evening was presented to Hungarian-born Australian Maria Pekli, who became the first Australian woman to win an Olympic judo medal when she won bronze in front of a home crowd at Sydney 2000, when she competed in the 57kg event.

"Tonight was a great moment for the international judo community and we can really describe it as a judo family, united and respectful of the values of the founder of judo, Master Jigoro Kano," Vizer said in closing the Gala.

"It is an honour for us to celebrate our heroes who have so much contributed to the development of judo worldwide.

"We really had a great show, great champions of course, but also great artists in a superb venue."

Following the second addition of the bi-annual IJF Hall of Fame Gala, a total of 30 legends of the sport in total have been honoured.

The Hall of Fame evening precedes the draw for the World Judo Championships, which takes place tomorrow, before competition commences on Monday (August 24).

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