Wim Ruska

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Wim Ruska

Wim Ruska in 1968
Personal information
Full name Willem Ruska
Nickname(s) Tarzan of the Tatami
Born(1940-08-29)29 August 1940
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Died 14 February 2015(2015-02-14) (aged 74)
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight 94 kg (207 lb)
Sport
Sport Judo

Willem "Wim" Ruska (29 August 1940 – 14 February 2015) was a judoka from the Netherlands. He is the only athlete to win two gold medals in Judo in one Olympics – in the heavyweight and absolute categories in 1972. [1]

Contents

Judo career

He started learning judo at the Dutch Navy, later traveling to Japan for further training. In the 1960s and 1970s, under the training of Jon Bluming, [2] he won seven European titles, five in the +93 kg category (1966–67, 1969, 1971–72) and two in the open category (1969 and 1972). [3] He furthermore won two world titles (1967 and 1971) and two Olympic titles. [4] His success at the 1972 Summer Olympics was overshadowed by the Munich massacre that took place days before. [5]

He retired after the 1972 Olympics [1] and later took part in professional wrestling.

Professional wrestling career

Ruska competed between 1976 and 1980 for the New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation promotions. He had over 150 pro wrestling matches, in some of which he was the tag team partner of fellow judoka Allen Coage. [6]

In August 1976, Ruska fought vale tudo legend Ivan Gomes during a NJPW tour in Brazil. [7] It is said he initially challenged the Gracie family, [8] likely in response to a previous challenge they had made to Anton Geesink in 1965, [9] but Gomes accepted to fight him instead. [8] At 110kg, Gomes was significantly heavier than the 95kg Ruska. [8] The bout was fought at least partially under pro wrestling rules, with NJPW worker Teruo Takahashi as the referee and the rule that every fighter would have to release any hold if his opponent grabbed the ropes. [10] [9]

Details about the fight are sparse. Marcial Serrano wrote Gomes threw illegal strikes during the bout, [11] though Keisuke Shibusawa claimed Ruska held his own and might have injured Gomes at some point. [10] Anyway, at some other point Gomes captured Ruska's back and tried a rear naked choke, but they became tangled on the ring ropes; a photography of the position exists in Shibusawa's book. [12] A turmoil then happened, and referee Takahashi decreed victory for the Dutchman. [7]

The circumstances of this decision are unknown: Ivan's brother Jose claimed Ruska fell unconscious at the submission leaving unclear if he had grabbed the ropes or not, leading Takahashi to disqualify Gomes, [9] while Shibusawa said the referee noted Gomes's body was positioned half out of the ropes, so he counted him out. [10] In any case Brazilian crowds were infuriated and caused a turmoil. Local newspapers declared Gomes the winner of the match, [11] and it was rumored Takahashi was expelled from Brazil due to what was perceived as a bad call. [10]

Ruska was a close friend to sambo world champion Chris Dolman, also a Bluming understudy. They had a falling out after Dolman joined Akira Maeda's Fighting Network Rings while Ruska was part of Antonio Inoki's New Japan Pro Wrestling, but they mended it in September 1997, when Inoki visited Holland along with Naoya Ogawa. They stayed in contact until Ruska's death in 2015. [13]

Later life

In 2001 Ruska suffered a major stroke which left him physically disabled. [1]

In 2013 he was inducted in the Hall of Fame of the International Judo Federation. [14]

Ruska was admitted to a nursing home in 2014. Ruska died on 14 February 2015 at the age of 74 and was survived by his wife, two children and five grandchildren. [15]

References