I started in judo fifteen years ago during my freshman year of college (I know this reveals my age). Back in the day, I competed often, and when the 96 Olympics came, I was excited to follow the athletes whom my sensei had talked up. Unfortunately those were long before the days when NBC had tons of different channels and feeds, and so I was stuck checking the results in the NY Post. My sensei told me that judo was a huge sport in Europe and Asia, and that the US was one of the few countries where most people had no idea what judo was. We bitched and complained about television coverage, and we wondered why they didn't diversify their offerings to show the less popular sports. We asked how judo could ever be popular if they never showed it.
In 2000, four years later, I was working the night shift at an internet company, and while I was able to get more instantaneous results, I was still unable to watch. I checked out the athlete bios, and I compared the written descriptions of the wins and losses of the star atheletes that I knew. Even though I still couldn't see what was going on, it was still exciting. In 2004, it was the same thing, though I had lost track of who was who.
Now, in 2008, people in the U.S. can finally watch judo. It's all online here. NBC has expanded its coverage to the online world, and so even if their networks don't carry these less popular sports, aficionados can still tune in on the website. According to the NY Times (and according to my own memory), this is the first time they are doing this. It's absolutely amazing. The internet has enabled niche specialists to finally follow their interests.
There's only one problem. Now that I'm old and grey and have been out of judo for so long, I have no idea who the players are! The only name I know is the legendary Ryoko Tani, formerly Ryoko Tamura, who unfortunately failed in her attempt today to become the first woman judoka with three gold medals. According to the Daily Yomiuri, it was a bit of a strange bad call. These happen all the time in judo, so I'm not surprised--as you can see from the article, after one woman won, the judges awarded the match to her opponent, and then they reneged and gave it back to the real winner. Haha...I remember watching one match during my college years where the same thing happened, only they didn't reverse the messed up call. I told the guy, "You won," and he said, "Well, those are the breaks." Great attitude, but such breaks only take place in the world of competitive judo!
(I'm not ragging on judo refs. I've tried being a ref, and it's probably the hardest sport in the world to referee because of the quick decisions that each ref needs to make.)
In the sport of judo today, Romania's Alina Dumitru won the gold for the Women's 48 kg, and South Korea's Minho Choi won the gold for the Men's 60 kg, and you can see it all on the NBC website.