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Interviewing an Olympic champion is something special and always delivers thought-provoking words and ideas; it’s a unique kind of education. Following the stories of the first 37 Olympic champions in the series, winners from 1976 to 2021, we now share the words of Kosei Inoue, Olympic champion in Sydney in 2000 in the -100 kg category.
Kosei Inoue (JPN), Olympic champion. Photo by David Finch / Getty Images.

We introduced the statistics, the almost impossible feat and the question in our first article in the series, which can be found here:

A reminder of the question:

It could be said that to be in the company of an Olympic judo champion is to be presented with someone whom has reached an absolute pinnacle, a ceiling which cannot be surpassed; there is nowhere further to ascend in the world of sport. We often find Olympic champions speaking with freedom and certainty, unafraid to share an opinion, speaking of their lives and journeys with confidence. For many we feel there is peace, and that can be magnetic and inspiring.

So the question is, did they become Olympic champion because of that character or did they become that person having won the Olympic gold medal?

Photo by David Finch / Getty Images.

“When I was 5 years old I started judo because my father was a policeman and judoka. He took us, me and my brother, to the dojo to show us his practice. My father was 76kg, so not big, but he was throwing opponents with uchi-mata and ashi-waza and I was so impressed.

My father always taught me technique and also a lot of things as a human being, very important things in my judo life. This is my core, my centre, my thinking: humanity and judo together. I always think about how to improve my judo technique and my human capacities. My goal and my dream was to be Olympic champion but I didn’t just focus on winning and losing. I always wanted to become a strong judoka, the best but it was and still is about community, technique and humanity."

Technique, fully emplyed against Zeevi (ISR) in Sydney. Photo by David Finch / Getty Images.

"I’ve learned a lot of things from judo. Winning and losing are not the only important outcomes. Judo has a lot of varied ideas and impacts to apply to life. It’s very important for me to be aware and to think about how I can use this great experience in my future life.”

Why Kosei Inoue?

The final of the -100 kg category at the Sydney Olympic Games, 2000. Kosei Inoue (JPN) vs Nicolas Gill (CAN). Photo by David Finch / Getty Images.

“I am a lucky man. A lot of people supported me. Without that it wouldn’t have been possible. If I didn’t meet a number of the people who were in my life, from parents to friends to teachers, I’m sure I wouldn’t have achieved what I did.

I just love judo and at the time I really wanted simply to continue to do judo. Of course the results matter and I wanted gold again and again, of course but at the time I also just wanted to continue. I think maybe one Olympic gold was just not enough for me. I thought I could do more good judo, maybe produce an even stronger judo after the Olympic gold.

The process of becoming an Olympic champion is of great value in my life. My teachers and father always said it like that to me.”

The uchi-mata in Sydney. Photo by David Finch / Getty Images.

Yasuhiro Yamashita and Nobuki Sato were among Kosei Inoue’s teachers and were incredibly important in his sporting and broader life, alongside his father, Akira Inoue.

“They thought I was special and I believed them. That was very powerful.

I don’t think the medal changed me. My character is the same. I am a gentleman and so it’s difficult to describe my own character but I believe it brought me to where I am now, in a strong leadership role.”