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Olympian Hiroshi Izumi wants to return and fight for Japan

Olympian Hiroshi Izumi wants to return and fight for Japan

31 Mar 2015 16:20

Five years after retiring and more than a decade since winning an Olympic medal, Hiroshi Izumi has returned to the judo mat. “I realize how much I love judo. I want to be No. 1 in Japan again.” His fellow medallists of Athens all retired: Zurab Zviadauri continued judo in the Georgian parliament, Mark Huizinga shines as top fisherman and TV celeb and Kasanbi Taov is coach at the Russian team.

In December, Izumi reregistered with the All Japan Judo Federation, having met the organization’s stipulation that athletes who had turned professional must wait three years after retiring.


At the Kanto region championships, at March 1 in Maebashi, he lost in his opening match to eventual champion Shohei Shimowada, a 24-year-old with his own aims of making the Japan team for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Izumi came back to win two matches in the repechage, using his trademark osotogari, in which he crosses over and trips his opponent backwards. While that was not good enough to earn him a spot in the All-Japan Championship, the open-weight competition to be held later this month, the veteran expressed satisfaction with his effort.

“It’s surprising that I got into shape in just three months,” Izumi said. “It made me realize that returning to competition may not be impossible.”

Izumi won the silver medal in the 90-kilogram class at the 2004 Athens Olympics and won the Tournoi de Paris that year.  But he suffered a second-round loss four years later in Beijing. 

He entered the professional world of MMA in July 2009, but quit after just a year with the goal of competing in the 2012 Olympics, this time in wrestling. A complete novice to the sport, that venture never really got off the ground.

Izumi, who tips the scales at about 110 kilograms, now faces the task of cutting weight to compete in the 100-kilogram class for a corporate club tournament. That is one step on the path to his next goal, of winning the title at the prestigious Kodokan Cup All-Japan Weight Class Championships in November.

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