The Los Angeles Olympics
was the competition where I was the most nervous. It didn’t really matter that
I’d already been World Champion a number of times. I never once lost in an international competition Which means that I was never beaten by an overseas competitor either. Arthur Schnabel of Germany was an opponent I knew well. I tore my right calf muscle when performing a throw called Uchi Mata. To tell you the truth, when I tore the muscle during the move I thought “damn it!”. It’s a world where the winner rules,and where you can’t afford to show any weakness. I somehow managed to get through that match
without letting my opponent know that I was injured but I was depressed for while after we came off. One of my strengths, though, is my grin and bear it attitude and I knew there was no point in dwelling on it. I focussed myself ready for the next match. If my injury became evident, it would make it harder. I was determined not to show any pain in my face and that I would chokehold my opponent to win and that’s how I went into the remaining matches. The Los Angeles Olympics was the first time I’d faced Rashwan, who was from Egypt although I knew him well because he was a competition fighter like me. I was carrying an injury, so I had absolutely no idea what I’d be able to do. In that sense, I had no strategy. When the fight started we came together, gripping one another roughly in the centre of the mat. As we gripped, Rashwan went for a move. I sidestepped his move, and because I’d twisted my body my legs weren’t where they were supposed to be, so he failed to make contact. When he lost his balance I used both hands to take him down. Then I held him down to win by ippon. I don’t know whether I looked at the judge, but I felt like, “I’ve done it! Before I knew it I was standing up celebrating. I’d never shown such emotion at a victory before. I had no time to feel anything like that. My injured leg had been hurting so much. I’d been fighting the pain all the way to victory. I just felt, “yes! I’ve done it!” I don’t think I really knew what was going on around me. I’d been dreaming of victory since I was little. The 1964 games in Tokyo was the first time the Olympics were held in Asia and I followed them on the TV. I was seven at the time. I started judo at the age of ten, when I was at primary school. As I worked hard at it I started to dream of going to the Olympics. So it was an incredibly happy moment when my dream came true.