The beauty of judo comes in so many forms. From impressive and inspirational skills in huge, packed arenas to education seminars, refugee engagement in camps around the world, the promotion of values to contribute to a better future and many more aspects, we understand that judo is different in the sporting world.

Judo provides its community, and increasingly a wider audience, with opportunities to get close to the biggest names, to hear their advice, feel their energy and learn from their experiences. Most sports can’t offer such contact.

In Tajikistan, a globally known name arrived, invited by the Tajikistan Judo Federation, as a special VIP guest at the first Dushanbe Grand Slam. Shohei Ono, double Olympic and triple world champion also came to inspire young Tajik judoka, to show the crowd that their tournament is one of great value not to be missed, to offer children unique photo opportunities and memories they will treasure forever, and to deliver an eagerly awaited seminar.

Such is the magnetism of Ono, the crowds gathered in large numbers, treating him like a Hollywood icon. This idea though, is not so out of the ordinary. What is the equivalent in Hollywood? A winner of 2 Oscars maybe? Would local people usually have the chance to meet with their on-screen heroes? The comparison is appropriate as Shohei Ono reached the very pinnacle of any athlete’s dream career, inspiring millions of judoka to learn and practise his techniques, to have huge dreams. Ono’s presence brings glamour and sparkle to Dushanbe, without any doubt.

“It’s my first time in Tajikistan,” said Ono. “I have been to a lot of countries and in Tajikistan the fans are crazy for judo. I did a signing for them and there were so many people there all taking part in this special occasion in Dushanbe. I’m impressed by the welcome I have had everywhere here. I arrived at the airport at 2 a.m. and even at that time many judo fans were waiting for me, waiting for my arrival.

I have a seminar in Dushanbe; I want to contribute to the development of the judo here. I’m interested to see the Tajik judoka and how they continue to develop in the future. All central Asian countries are getting strong and this is good for global judo.”

With superstar status, Ono is essentially in Tajikistan to inspire; a true legend of world judo, never happier than when the next generation are ready and open to learn the strongest judo from one of the strongest judoka in history.

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