The stars were shining at USA Judo’s Night of Champions as many of the best from the sport stepped out in semi-formal attire to honor two of the finest coaches in the country, Willy Cahill and Yoshihiro “Yosh” Uchida, with Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Joining them in the limelight was U.S. Olympic Bronze Medalist Marti Malloy, recognized for her outstanding achievement as an athlete with USA Judo’s Champion Award. Serving as the keynote speaker was fellow judo star, World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist, Mike Swain, who serves on USA Judo’s board and coaches alongside Uchida at San Jose State University Judo.
Few coaches have achieved so much for the sport as Cahill and Uchida, training top athletes, including Olympians, from across the nation. More than 325 of their fans, athletes and supporters gathered at USA Judo’s annual gala event held Friday in Foster City, CA, to celebrate their contributions.
Uchida is the founder of the San Jose State University Judo Club, which has produced so many elite athletes and Olympians, including Marti Malloy. A surprise arrived at the Night of Champions when Uchida was also awarded the highest rank in judo, a 10th degree black belt.
Willy Cahill, who has led Olympians and Paralympians into competition and co-founded the Blind Judo Foundation to promote the sport for the visually impaired, was also acknowledged in the Congressional record for his invaluable service. Also in honor of his service, the Governor of Hawaii, a state rich with judo culture where Cahill traces his roots in the sport, named the day “Willy Cahill Day.”
Both coaches also received awards from the State of California, where their work has been particularly important in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“2016 will be our 13th time that judo will appear on the Olympic stage,” said Uchida. “Up to now, we have not been too successful but we are starting to become successful. We are starting to place in the Olympics.” Uchida was in London last summer to see his own student, Malloy take the bronze alongside Kayla Harrison, who took the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in London.
“It’s a great honor receiving the lifetime achievement award from our national governing body,” said Cahill. “More rewarding is sharing this award with a legendary judo coach, Mr. Uchida.”
“I was so surprised to receive the Champion Award,” said Malloy. “Just being there to witness Mr. Uchida and Mr. Cahill being honored for their amazing achievements was inspiring enough. But to receive an honor myself in the presence of so many incredible judoka of past and present made for a great night!”
Corinne Shigemoto, USA Judo’s Chief Operating Officer and a former student of Cahill’s said of the two Lifetime Achievement honorees, “There isn’t anyone in this sport in this country who hasn’t benefited from these two men. They are particularly important in the Bay Area but they have coached some of our finest athletes to victory and had the vision to make judo more accessible to everyone. We can all be so proud and so grateful.”
Yoshihiro “Yosh” Uchida is the founder and head coach of the San Jose State University judo program, one of the most important dojos in the country, producing numerous national and international champions including Olympic medalists Bobby Berland, Mike Swain, Kevin Asano and Marti Malloy.
Uchida led the nation’s first U.S. Olympic Judo Team to the very first Olympic judo competition, held in 1964 in Tokyo, where U.S. judoka Jim Bregman took a bronze medal. His dojo at San Jose State was named a USA Judo National Training Site in 2007.
Uchida was the child of Japanese immigrants who worked on farms in California’s Imperial Valley. He graduated from San Jose State University, became a student-coach of the school’s judo program and was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II as a medical technician. He completed his degree at San Jose after the war and restarted the judo program there.
He joined efforts with Henry Stone, UC Berkeley’s judo coach, to develop competition rules, including a weight-class system, and created the first AAU National Championships in judo in 1953. Uchida went on to organize the first National Collegiate Judo Championships in 1962.
Having served several terms as President of the USA Judo Board of Directors, Uchida’s contribution to the sport remains strong to this day. Last summer, he was present at the Olympic Games in London to watch his student at the San Jose State University National Training Center, Marti Malloy, take a bronze medal.
Willy Cahill has been an assistant U.S. Olympic Judo coach twice and a U.S. Paralympic Judo coach twice. At the 2000 Paralympic Games, the U.S. Team took two gold medals, the first for the nation. His San Bruno dojo has consistently produced some of the nation’s most accomplished judoka, including more than a thousand state, national and international medalists. Among those are Olympic silver medalist Lynn Roethke, 1984 Olympian Brett Barron, who was Cahill’s student, and women’s Olympic Judo Team Coach Corinne Shigemoto, now USA Judo’s Chief Operating Officer. Cahill is also a co-founder and CEO of the Blind Judo Foundation, which promotes the sport for the visually impaired.
When Cahill was assistant coach of the 1984 Olympic Team, Eddie Liddie took bronze and Robert Berland took silver. When Cahill was assistant coach of the 1988 Men’s Olympic Team, Kevin Asano took silver and Mike Swain took bronze. Raul Tamayo, another Cahill student, went on to coach the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Team in Beijing.
Cahill traces his roots in judo to his father, Professor John Cahill Sr., who studied jujitsu under acclaimed instructor Henry S. Okazaki in Hawaii, and then founded the first Cahill’s Judo Academy in Daly City in 1948.
Cahill Sr. passed away in 1962 at the age of 50. The next year, Willy Cahill built a new dojo in San Bruno, CA, in his father’s honor. It is from his dojo that so many accomplished elite judoka have come.
Recently, Cahill was interviewed alongside student Jordan Mouton in the Youtube documentary series, “Blind Judoka,” which detailed the athlete’s journey toward the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and the injury that forced her to withdraw. To see the films, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe6hCuacQmI.