Honored for their work around the mats

By Ernest Pund | Jan. 02, 2013, 1:05 a.m. (ET)

In judo, medals are won in competition. Some honors, though, are earned alongside the mat. Those ‘matches’ last years, sometimes decades, instead of minutes.

Several of the sports finest, most enduring supporters received extraordinary awards this past year for their service to the sport.

Jim Hrbek, head instructor of Universal Judo in San Antonio, TX, and the chairman of USA Judo’s Junior Athlete Performance Committee, was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Developmental Coach of the year, one of five categories of coaching expertise for which the prestigious award is given. Alan Ashley, the USOC’s chief of sport performance, described the recipients as “shining examples of the team behind the team.”

Bert Mackey and Dr. Sandy North had just claimed their silver and gold medals respectively at the Grand Masters Judo World Championships in Miami when they were called to the podium once again.

The International Judo Federation honored these two men with awards for their tireless devotion to the development of masters-level judo. The tournament where they received the award could be seen as a direct product of their efforts, attended by nearly 900 competitors from around the world.

LuiGuardia is a pioneer of judo in Pan America and Cuba, authored a book recently that chronicles the development of the sport in those regions. He was honored at the Grand Masters Judo World Championship by Vladimir Barta, the IJF's Head Sports Director, who presented Guardia with a gold medal for his 60 years of contribution in region that now consistently produces some of the top athletes in the world.  His book, “Origins of Pan-American Judo,” is available at http://judostore.usjudo.org.

USA Judo’s Night of Champions is designed to acknowledge and celebrate the finest work in judo. Held alongside the 2012 Senior National Championships in Irving, Texas, a number of the sport’s finest supporters were honored.

Kevin Asano, U.S. Olympic silver medalist and president of the US Judo Federation, served as the featured speaker at the prestigious event. Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Noboru Saito and Shigeyuki “Ace” Sukigara for their enduring contributions to judo in the United States. Dr. Ron Tripp and Gail Stolzenburg were honored with Executive Director Awards for their devoted administrative service. Four-time Olympian Brian Olson was presented with the Champions Award for career performance.

By Ernest Pund, USA Judo Communications