For most people the sport of Judo doesn’t really conjure up images of Italy, as they are more known for soccer, but the nation has quite a proud history in Judo circles. Possibly, with the help of Fabio Basile and Odette Giuffrida who won Gold and Silver medals respectively at the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, their future doesn’t look too shoddy either.
It has also recently been announced that Italy will be the home of 2021s Junior World Championship, a competition that was last hosted in Italy 33 years ago when Rome acted as host city. Whilst Sardinian city Olbia prepares itself for the event, which was last held before in Marrakech, Morocco, we’re instead going to take a look at some of the best judokas ever to have come out of the Bel Paese.
NUMBER 3 – YLENIA SCAPIN
Scapin, who was born in Bolzano, burst onto the Judo scene aged 21 as she went on to win Olympic Bronze at Atlanta 1996; it proved to be the first of two Olympic third place medals with the other coming at Sydney 2000 in a different weight class. Scapin became somewhat of a specialist at finishing with the Bronze medal; she collected a total of 10 during her career.
Her skills weren’t limited to Judo though and she would unquestionably be a match for anyone today including the top women MMA fighters too. In addition to the Bronze medals, she also bagged two silvers at European Championships and, finally, at Lisbon 2008 she won the solitary Gold of her career cementing her place in the Italian history books.
NUMBER 2 – EMANUELA PIERANTOZZI
Pierantozzi got her career off to a flying start by announcing herself as World Champion in both 1989 and again two years later in Barcelona. It proved a high point for Pierantozzi but that’s not to say she had a bad run of things, more that she just set a high bar. A year after the second – and last – Gold medal Pierantozzi won silver in Barcelona’s Olympic Games. All in all, she won five medals for her nation and is more than worthy of a place on this list. Nowadays, Pierantozzi spends her time passing on her knowledge of the sport – as well as Sports Science – as a lecturer at Genoa University.
NUMBER 1 – EZIO GAMBA
Gamba still has his hands firmly in the Judo game but although he’s an Italian legend he now keeps busy as part of the Russian set up where he is held in high regard by Vladimir Putin. It’s not for his coaching work that Gamba is a hero in Italy though; prior to moving into his training role, Gamba was busy racking up medals for his native country.
He fell at the final hurdle on several occasions in the search for Gold after two World Championships in 1976 and 79 and the European versions in 77 and, again, 79 saw a quadruple of second place finishes. Gamba wasn’t to be denied though and, through grit and determination, in 1980 he conquered the world with Olympic Gold in 1980; another Gold was added to his haul in 82 at the European Championships and those medals now form part of an impressive medal haul that reads two golds, five silvers and a bronze.
There you have it, a trio of Italy’s finest and with the 2021 Junior Championships now due to be in their homeland there is an opportunity for a generation of youngsters to make their own first steps on the route to join the three big names listed on the path to legendary status.