Rene Capo

Last updated
Rene Capo
BornRené Capo
(1961-05-09)May 9, 1961
Pinar del Río, Cuba
DiedJuly 6, 2009(2009-07-06) (aged 48)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Other namesCaposki
NationalityFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Division Heavyweight
Style Judo
University University of Minnesota
Rene Capo
Medal record
Men's Judo
Representing the Flag of the United States.svg  United States
High School Nationals
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1977 Yale Heavyweight
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1979 Rogers Heavyweight
Pacific Rim Championships
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1987 Colorado Springs Heavyweight
US Olympic Trials
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1988 Colorado Springs Heavyweight
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1996 Colorado Springs Heavyweight
United States Senior Nationals
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1979 San Francisco Heavyweight
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1989 Orlando Heavyweight
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1991 Honolulu Heavyweight
Silver medal icon (S initial).svg 1998 Chicago Heavyweight
Bronze medal icon (B initial).svg 2002 Cleveland Heavyweight
Finnish Open
Silver medal icon (S initial).svg 1995 Heavyweight

Rene Capo (May 9, 1961 – July 6, 2009) was a judoka from the United States who competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 1996 Summer Olympics. [1] Capo immigrated to the United States from Cuba as a young boy. Though he won several judo championships in high school, Capo took a four-year break from the sport to attend the University of Minnesota. After college, Capo went on to qualify for two United States Olympics teams, could not compete as an alternate in another due to a back injury, and narrowly missed making the 2008 team. In 2008, Capo was diagnosed with lung cancer, which caused his death the following year.


Early life

Capo immigrated to the United States from Pinar del Río, Cuba in 1962, when he was still an infant, [2] and grew up in Hialeah, Florida. He learned Judo as a member of Florida Judo Kai, under the tutelage of Cuban Champion Reinaldo Montpellier. [1] [3] After graduating from Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School [2] He attended the University of Minnesota, where he played defensive tackle for the Golden Gophers from 1979 to 1982, [4] sharing a team record with four sacks. [1] [4]

Judo career

Amateur competition

At the age of six, Capo competed in his first judo competition, and had won his first tournament by nine. [2] By sixteen, he had become a Grandmaster, and won the Judo high school national championship. By the time of his graduation, Capo had earned a national high school gold medal, and won the United States Senior National title. A classmate recalls how, as a 190-pound junior, Capo pinned Lester Williams, then regarded as possibly the top high school athlete in the nation. [2]

Professional career

After a four-year break from Judo in which he focused on football and college, Capo won a gold medal at the 1987 Pacific Rim Championships. A year later, he upset a number of highly ranked heavyweights at the US Judo Olympic Trials. [2] At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Capo finished 19th. [2] Capo qualified as the alternate for the 1992 Summer Olympics, but was unable to compete due to severe neck injury. After having surgery on two vertebrae, he made it to the 1996 Summer Olympics, where he was eliminated the first day. From 2005 to 2007, Capo taught judo at the Jason Morris Judo Center in Glenville. [5] He narrowly missed qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympics, [2] losing to his own student, Kyle Vashkulat. [5] At the 2008 USA Judo Senior National Championships one month later, Capo placed fifth. [6]


In 2008, Capo, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer, from which he died on July 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. [2] At the time, he lived in Naperville, Illinois, [6] where he had moved to earn money selling magazine subscriptions to schools. [5]

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  1. 1 2 3 Associated Press (7 July 2009). "Judo Olympian Capo dies at 48". USA Today . Gannett Company . Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Quinones, David (8 July 2009). "Hialeah's Rene Capo, a two-time Olympian and judo champ, dies at 48". The Miami Herald . The McClatchy Company.
  3. "Fallece judoca cubano-estadounidense René Capo". Univision (in Spanish). 7 July 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.[ dead link ]
  4. 1 2 Youngblood, Kent (8 July 2009). "U nose tackle became judo champ". Star Tribune . Avista Capital Partners . Retrieved 9 July 2009.[ permanent dead link ]
  5. 1 2 3 Singelais, Mark (8 July 2009). "Judo Olympian Capo dies". Times Union . Hearst Corporation . Retrieved 9 July 2009.[ dead link ]
  6. 1 2 Associated Press (7 July 2009). "Latest Florida Sports". WFOR-TV . CBS. Archived from the original on July 17, 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2009.