Your Shopping Basket
Fighter Profiles > Olympic Champions > Kosei Inoue
DOB - 15 May 1978
COUNTRY - Japan
WEIGHT - U100kg & O100KG
Olympic GamesSydney 2000 Gold
Birmingham 1999 Gold
Kosei Inoue is one of the greatest judokas of all time. From 1999 to 2003 he was virtually untouchable; beating everyone there was en route to 3 World Championship titles and the gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games. His all out attacking Tachi-waza, and especially his phenomenal Tokui-waza- Uchimata, lead to him being many a Judoka’s favourite fighter and hero. On top of his notorious Uchimata, his other favoured techniques included Ouchi-gari, Harai-goshi, Osoto-gari, a lighting fast drop Morote-seoi-nage and some very effective Shime-waza.
Inoue began judo as a small child in his home town of Miyazaki in Kyushu, Japan. The youngest of three boys he started judo under the tutelage of his father- himself an accomplished judoka. One of his early coaches, former World Champion Hidetoshi Nakanashi, remembers how Inoue, at the age of eleven, would train endlessly every day until being forced to stop by his teachers. Like many a Japanese champion before him, Inoue had the customs of the samurai instilled in him from an early age and this manifested itself in his adulthood as he became one of the most attacking and all out judoka the world has ever seen.
Inoue first burst to prominence on the International scene at the 1999 World Championships in Birmingham. His furious adrenaline pumped style had the crowd on the edge of their seat as he blitzed his way into the final against Sung-ho Jang of Korea. There, he treated the crowd to even more excitement as he built up a lead of 3 yukos. Despite this, he endlessly pursued Jang, risking all in search of ippon. It was this approach that captured people’s attention and earned him a reputation as a staunch proponent of ‘Ippon Judo’. When the time on the contest was over and Inoue was crowned World Champion for the first time he wept tears of both sadness and joy as he remembered his mother, who tragically passed away before seeing her son on this stage.
For any that thought Birmingham was a fluke, Inoue began to up the notch. At the 2000 Paris Tournament he demolished all comers, eventually throwing the Frenchman Stephane Traineau for ippon in the final in front of the intimidating Parisian crowd. In the summer of 2000 he went to the Sydney Olympic Games with one goal and one goal only- to take the gold home to Japan. And he did not disappoint, winnning all of his opening contests by ippon. In the final he faced the strong and experienced left handed Canadian, Nicholas Gill. Gill had looked on fire himself en route to the final and was expecting the Uchimata, refusing to let the insatiable Inoue take his right sleeve. When Inoue finally managed to get the sleeve he attacked with Ouchi-gari, Gill braced against the attack and once again freed his sleeve. There they stood, near the edge of the mat- Inoue searching forward with his left hand looking for Gill’s sleeve and Gill keeping his right arm away. When Inoue finally managed to take the sleeve, he immeadiately threw another Ouchi attack, Gill once again braced against the attack, but no sooner than Inoue’s feet returned after the Ouchi he flew back in with a huge Uchimata. Gill was launched cleanly through the air, due partly to Inoue’s mastery of the technique and partly to the betrayal of his earlier reaction to the Ouchi, for what is regarded by many as the best Uchimata of all time. As soon as Gill hit the mat Inoue threw both fists in the air in what has become an iconic image of victory. On the podium he carried a framed picture of his mother that his father had carried throughout the day. Inoue’s performance in Sydney is remembered by many as the greatest Olympic judo performance of all time, after the final Nicholas Gill is reputed to have said, ‘I am the champion of the world- because the guy that beat me is not of this world’.
In 2001 Inoue continued the fine form of 2000, winning a second world title in Munich. In the final he faced the fighter whom many at the time considered to be his bogeyman- Hungary’s Antal Kovacs. Kovacs had beaten him earlier in the year, shockingly daring to throw Inoue for ippon with his own Tokui-waza- Uchimata. All eyes were on Inoue in the final to see whether he would avenge this defeat. Early in the fight Inoue stumbled Kovacs with an Ouchi attack and realised that this technique was what he needed to fell the Hungarian. Sure enough, later in the fight he attacked with a hopping Ouchi that started in the middle of the tatami and ended off the edge with Kovacs flat on his back. Despite this result giving Inoue his second World title, there was another achievement in 2001 that helped cement Inoue as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
In 1998 Inoue first faced the giant Shinichi Shinohara in the All Japan Championships. He was unable to match Shinohara’s strength and lost by ippon. In 2000 he faced Shinohara again, this time in the final. Once again he lost, although this time by Keikoku. Then in the final of the 2001 All Japan Championships, Inoue finally beat Shinohara to win the title so coveted by the Japanese. He was the first non super heavyweight fighter to take the title since 1974.
This victory was four years in the making, and the significance was clear from his reactions when the flags went up in his favour. ‘The moment I learned I had won, all the strength left my body and I became light-headed’, he said afterwards. He went on to add a further two All Japan titles in 2002 and 2003, where he threw the 2003 World Champion at open weight, Keiji Suzuki with another spectacular Uchimata ippon in the final.
In 2003 the World Championships were staged in Osaka, Japan. Inoue rose to the challenge of performing in front of his countrymen and demolished his opposition en route to taking his third successive World championship victory. In the final he faced the awkward Frenchman, Ghislain Lemaire. Lemaire refused to set himself in front of Inoue, no doubt fearing his uchimata. Instead, Inoue used a perfect Hari-makikomi to take the gold, not only did this bring him victory, it also demonstrated what a truly versatile fighter he could be when needed.
After 2003 Inoue was seen as unstoppable going into the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and his victory was hailed as a foregone conclusion. However, Inoue finally showed his mortality as he crashed out against Elco van der Geest in the quarter-final. In the repechage he was a shell of a fighter, and lost to Miraliyev of Azerbaijan. The following year Inoue badly injured his shoulder in the process of winning the 2005 Kano cup. This injury meant he would be off the mat for close to 18 months. When he came back he surprised many by deciding to fight up a weight in the over 100kg category. Though Inoue had been a fantastic fighter at under 100kg, there were doubts as to whether he would be able to use his powerful, explosive judo against the huge men in this division. Inoue answered these doubts in the best way possible- on the mat.
In 2007, Inoue entered the prestigious Paris Tournament- a tournament considered by many to be equally as tough as the World Championships. In the opening round he emphatically declared his return, throwing his Greek opponent for ippon with Uchimata. In the next round he showed his versatility once again, strangling Bor of Hungary for the win. Then came a real test- the monstrous Russian Aleksander Mikhailine. Here Inoue stunned everyone by completely outgripping his much larger opponent, frustrating him into conceding two penalties to give Inoue a place in the final. There he claimed the gold in spectacular fashion, coming from a waza-ari down to throw Yuri Rybak for ippon with Ouchi-gari. Inoue had proven he could hack it on the International scene at over 100kg.
Following this victory Inoue began to look towards Beijing the following summer. He was chosen to represent Japan at the World Championships in Rio de Janiero and successfully qualified his weight for Beijing, finishing 5th. Although not great by his own high standards, Inoue showed his class at times- throwing Cuba’s Oscar Brayson for ippon with Uchimata. In the end he lost out to the eventual winner, Teddy Riner of France, in the semi-final before losing in the bronze medal fight by a koka.
In 2008 Inoue went into the All Japan championships knowing that he needed to win in order to earn his place representing Japan at over 100kg in Beijing. Unfortunately, it proved too much for Inoue as he lost out to Yohei Takai in the quarter-finals. This ended Inoue’s dreams of fighting in Beijing and he promptly retired from competitive judo. Kosei Inoue will always be remembered as one of the most skilful and exciting judoka to have ever graced the tatami. His mastery of Uchimata in particular, left many in awe of him. He truly set the early part of the new millennium on fire with his breathtaking ippon judo. He will now look to move forward to coaching Japan’s future heroes, let’s hope he can produce a fighter as exciting as himself!
In early 2009, Fighting films had the honour of filming for a 3 dvd boxset with Inoue. These DVDs, released in November the same year, set a new benchmark for judo productions going forwards just as a Inoue himself set a new benchmark for Judoka.