Referee Profile: Gary Takemoto
“Overall,” said Gary Takemoto, the U.S. referee to the World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, “I was on cloud nine!”
Takemoto is one of the nation’s most experienced international referees, but this was Takemoto’s first time serving as a referee at the Senior World Championships. where he was selected each day of the peak, week-long event to officiate or judge in the final block of medal rounds.
His favorite? “My favorite match I refereed was the +100 kg finals between Riner of France and Silva of Brazil. I’ve always wanted to referee this match between two great giants and my dream came true! Very exciting!”
Teddy Riner of France is revered as one of the best judoka ever, having won a gold and bronze medals at the Olympic Games and six World Championships, including the recent one in Rio. His challenger in Rio, Silva, has won an Olympic bronze and the silver medal at the Worlds.
Having become head instructor in 1986 of Harbor Judo Dojo in Harbor City near Long Beach, CA, Takemoto started as a referee because that’s what his close friend and mentor, Sensei Isao Wada in Los Angeles had recommended that he do. “Back in 1986, Sensei Isao Wada ordered me to start refereeing, now that I had my own dojo. I dared not disrespect Sensei Wada's order. I got onto the mat and that's when my journey began.”
Reaching the World Championships is the fulfillment of a dream, Takemoto said. “I hoped and wished that one day I would be selected by the IJF to officiate the Senior World Championships, and that day has come … this was truly a dream come true! I am proud to represent our country and our flag as the USA Referee at the 2013 Senior World Championships.”
His only other wish: that his father could have been in Rio with him. The man who had been such an inspiration to him passed away in June.
“He was so excited and proud of my accomplishments and always had words of wisdom for me before each championship,” Takemoto recalled. “He was not only proud of me but also very proud of Robert Fukuda's (another of the nation’s most experienced international referees) accomplishments and wanted to sit with Robert at this Worlds in Rio and ask him millions of questions about his experiences at the Olympics. Dad was a very special man. I truly miss him.”
Takemoto has barely taken a breath before resuming his service to the sport. He stepped on a plane this week for the Grand Prix Rijeka in Croatia.
Go to Harbor Judo Dojo’s WEBSITE.