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Judo: Double Olympic champs Saito, Tanimoto inducted into IJF Hall of Fame

Hitoshi Saito, left, and Ayumi Tanimoto (Kyodo)

BAKU, Azerbaijan (Kyodo) -- Two-time Olympic gold medalists Hitoshi Saito and Ayumi Tanimoto were inducted into the International Judo Federation Hall of Fame on Tuesday ahead of the world championships which kick off on Thursday.

    Saito was inducted posthumously following his death at age 54 from bile duct cancer in 2015. His wife Mieko attended the ceremony on his behalf, along with Tanimoto who has taken up coaching since retiring from competition in 2010.

    They became the sixth and seventh Japanese judoka to be inducted to the Hall of Fame, and joined 17 other inductees celebrated at the Buta Palace in Baku, Azerbaijan, the site of this year's world championships running from Sept. 20-27.

    Saito won back-to-back gold medals in the men's over 95-kilogram category in Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988. He was the open weight class world champion in 1983, and earned gold at the 1986 Asian Games.

    Tanimoto successfully defended her title in the women's 63-kilogram class in Beijing in 2008 and also earned consecutive Olympic golds. She claimed gold at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan and finished runner-up at the 2005 world championships.

    The 37-year-old was a coach for the women's judo squad in Rio in 2016, and is currently the women's junior coach for the All Japan Judo Federation. She is also a member of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

    The inductions were made by Kodokan Judo Institute president Haruki Uemura and AJJF president Yasuhiro Yamashita, themselves both IJF Hall of Famers.

    Uemura won gold in the open weight class at the 1976 Games in Montreal. In 2009, he became president of the Kodokan, the world's oldest judo school, founded in 1882.

    Yamashita, who considered Saito his lifetime rival, was a four-time world champion before winning the open weight gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

    "My heart is overwhelmed knowing his achievements have been recognized," Yamashita said. "Let us show our appreciation together."

    After retiring as a player, Saito served as the men's national team coach for the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The Aomori Prefecture native became head of the AJJF's committee for enhancement in 2012.

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