USA Judo logo

USA Judo

Two-Time Olympian Rene Capo Passes Away

July 06, 2009, 5:11 p.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - Two-time Olympian Rene Capo (Naperville, Ill. / Cohen's Judo) passed away in Chicago on Monday after a year-long battle with lung cancer at the age of 48. 

 "At a ridiculously young age we lost a great man today. He embodied the true spirit and notions of what it is to be a man. Rene lived and died with honor and integrity. In life, he had a fierce passion for competition few us will ever have," said USA Judo President Lance Nading (Denver, Colo.)  "I know all who knew Rene count themselves fortunate and he was a great friend to so many."

Capo, who competed at the 1988 and 1996 Olympic Games, made a comeback to the sport at the age of 46 when the seven-time Senior Nationals medalist returned to judo in 2007. 

Although he was viewed as a top candidate for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, Capo fell just short of qualifying for the Trials after defeating many of the top 100kg players throughout the season. 

Just over two months after he placed fifth at the USA Judo Senior National Championships in April, 2008, Capo was diagnosed with lung cancer.  

"I was lucky to have witnessed his first National Championships in San Francisco in 1970 and had the good fortune of seeing his last in Virginia Beach in 2008. Rene's fighting spirit influenced many of today's young champions and will do so for many years to come," Nading said. "I spoke to Rene just prior to the Senior Nationals in San Diego and I extended to him an invitation to attend the event.  He declined but said to say 'hi' to everyone and that he was feeling better and would definitely take me up on my invitation to come Orlando for the Junior Olympics in July."

Nading continued: "Rene made conversation easy for me and all the friends who contacted him in his last days. He was more interested in his friends and what they were up to than dwelling his own situation. In death, like everything, he competed with it and was brave beyond what my words can describe. Rene Capo has been and will continue to be an inspiration to all that have known him. Thank you Rene, we miss you"

A native of Miami, Capo excelled in both judo and football.  The natural athlete not only won national titles in judo that spanned three decades (1970s, 80s and 90s), but he also played football for the University of Minnesota from which he graduated in 1985.

"Rene Capo competed in judo, in football and in the end he competed for his life," said Bob Berland (Chicago, Ill. / Cohen's Judo), Capo's teammate at the 1988 Olympic Games.  "In the Olympics it's not about winning or losing; it's about the struggle. Today one of ours lost his battle to cancer but he fought till the bitter end and will forever be a champion who lost the battle, but whose spirit has won the war! We will miss you Rene Capo - a great competitor, but more importantly a great father and a great friend to us all!

Capo leaves behind two young children, Alex, 11, and Anthony, 8. 

"Rene was many things to many people, but for me he was a great friend, great father, great teammate and one hell of a judo competitor," said Jason Morris (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) who competed on the 1988 and 1996 Olympic Teams with Capo.

The family of Capo has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Capo's memory to the American Lung Association at:

American Lung Assn
2020 South Andrews Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316-3430
954-524 8409 direct to Liz Roberts

Services will be held on Friday, July 10 at the Bernardo Garcia Funeral Home 865 West 49th Street, Hialeah, FL 33102, 305.557.1010.

Comments