Named by the International Judo Federation as “the best female judoka in history” Ryoko Tani, or Ryoko Tamura (maiden name), is a former female Judo competitor, currently holds the world record for seven world titles along with five Olympic medals .
She was born in Fukuoka, Japan, on September 6, 1975, at the young age of 42, she participated in five summer Olympic Games, between 1992 and 2008, her Olympic medals are divided into: two gold, two silver and one bronze, all in the 48kg category.
Ryoko stands out for being a great competitor in Judo, and one of the few women who has competed and won medals in four consecutive Summer Olympic Games.
When she was 16 years old, Ryoko Tamura is proclaimed Olympic runner-up in the Olympic Games of Barcelona in 1992, defeating Karen Briggs in the semifinals of the weight category of 48 kg (superlight), and losing in the final with the world champion Cécile Nowak of France.
In Barcelona her name was marked because she obtained the same result in the 1996 Olympic Games of Atlanta, which aroused the interest of the female judo in Japan, at that time she became famous for her unbeatable winning streak, 84 consecutive victories in total , however in the end she let herself be surprised by a completely unknown North Korean: Kye Sun-Hi.
Kye Sun-Hi, only sixteen years old, started the fight with a strong offensive, which the double world champion Ryoko Tamura could not defend, and could not adapt to the rhythm of the fight, thus delivering the Olympic title to Kye
That result Ryoko Tamura considered it her last defeat, and it was. Between 1996 and 2000 Ryoko Tamura won again all the matches in a row and in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, in a close fight, defeating North Korea’s Cha Hyon-hyang in the semifinals, and in the finals the Russian Lyubov Bruletova achieved the long-awaited gold medal, scoring an ippon only 36 seconds after starting the fight. At that time, no Japanese sportsman had such pressure and expectations from the Japanese nation and people as Ryoko Tamura
After having obtained her gold medal, she became a celebrity in Japan, being such a fame that when she celebrated her wedding in Paris, it was broadcast by Japanese local television in 2003.
A year later, at the Olympic Games in Athens, Ryoko Tamura who would now be called Ryoko Tani, whose last name changed from Tamura to Tani for having married Yoshitomo Tani, was the first judoka to keep her Olympic medal by defeating the French Frédérique Jossinet.
In the year 2007, Ryoko Tani made a great return, competing in the Rio de Janeiro World Championship, where she won her 7th title in the 48 kg category. In this event Ryoko Tani proved that she was the one that still reigned over the category, after moving away for 2 years from the competitions, time where she gave birth to her son Yoshiaki on December 31, 2005.
Although she was defeated in the national championship that year in Rio, Ryoko Tani demonstrated her great technique, taking the place of world champion, Cuban Yanet Bermoy.
At the Beijing Olympics in 2008 she had to settle for a bronze medal, being defeated by the Romanian Alina Dumitru, and defeating in turn the Russian Lyudmila Bogdanova.
In her 15 years of sports incursions Ryoko Tamura internationally Ryoko Tani only suffered five defeats:
The first was with Karen Briggs, the British who took the title from her first Judo World Championship in 1991, when Ryoko Tani was only fifteen years old.
The second defeat was found in the final of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, against the French Cécile Nowak ..
The North Korean Kye Sun Hui, was the third person to defeat Ryoko Tani, in their meeting at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
And finally we have the Japanese Tomoko Fukumi, who defeated her twice, in 2002 and in 2007, in the final phase of the Japan Championship.
In May 2010, Ryoko Tani, was introduced to politics by Ichiro Ozawa, and in the summer of that year, still preparing to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, she was elected to the Upper Chamber of the National Diet of Japan, also known as the Chamber of Councilors, so once appointed in the post announced her retirement from professional Judo.
If there is something that should be attributed to Ryoko Tani, it is the rise of female judo in Japan, Ryoko Tani continued the legacy of Kaori Yamaguchi, the first Japanese woman to win a World Judo Championship in 1984. Until then, judo it had prevailed only as a sport for men.
Ryoko Tani, did not allow her marriage with Yoshitomo Tani to end her sports career, and neither the birth of her son, she is considered a female world symbol, as a young mother, wife and professional judoka.