1980 Moscow, +95kg: Angelo Parisi (FRA)

The Moscow Olympics was marred by a US-led boycott that saw Japan, South Korea and West Germany declining to participate. This had a big impact on judo. Japan’s absence inevitably meant the competition level would be lower (Japan usually wins at least half the gold medals on offer). But it also meant more chances for other countries to win, and this was certainly the case in the heavyweight division, where Japan had two bona fide superstars.

One was the very experienced Sumio Endo, who had won the Open division in the 1979 World’s and the other was the rising star Yasuhiro Yamashita, who had won the +95kg division in the 1979 World’s. There’s little doubt they would have swept the Open and +95kg divisions at the Moscow Games, had they participated.

In Moscow, the star of the +95kg show as France’s Angelo Parisi, who had switched nationalities from Britain after he married a French woman and moved to France. Parisi showed great potential early on in his career and had won a bronze medal in the 1972 Munich Olympics. His decision to switch nationalities prevented him from competing in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. But by 1980, he was free to compete for his new country.

Parisi was an unusual heavyweight in that he was not very large and he moved around like a lightweight. His favored grip was a double lapel grip, which prevented his opponents from knowing which side he was going to throw towards.

He threw his first opponent, Wojciech Reszko of Poland with a dynamic seoi-nage/ashi-guruma combination, which had the big Pole flying through the air. But as Wojciech managed to spin out and avoid landing on his back, only a yuko was scored. This was enough to win Parisi the match though. He did even better in his next match, throwing Vladimir Kocman of Czechosolovakia for ippon with another morote-seoi-nage from a double-lapel grip.

Parisi’s semifinal match was against Britain’s Paul Radburn, another relatively lighter heavyweight who also like to move around a lot. Their similar styles cancelled each other out and no score was recorded. In the end, Parisi won through penalties.

Parisi’s final match was against Dimitar Zaprianov of Bulgaria who was more than 30kg heavier. Although Paris could throw to both sides, in Moscow he seemed to favor the left. In his first two matches, he threw both his opponents towards the left. In fact, he tried to do the same with Zaprianov to nearly disastrous results. The big Bulgarian countered him for what could easily have been an ippon, but for some reason only a yuko was given. This gave Parisi a new lease of life and he made the most of it.

With only about a minute left in the match, Parisi dance around Zaprianov and slipped past his arms to launch him with a massive standing morote-seoi-nage to the right. An ippon was scored to thunderous applause from the audience, who probably had never seen a heavyweight throw like that before.

Although Yamashita could not participate in Moscow due to the boycott, he was there to watch the judo competition. After the whole event was over, he was quoted as saying that Parisi was the only player worth watching. It would have been interesting to have seen Parisi in his prime go up against Yamashita, who was also peaking at the time. As it turned out, although both players had long careers, they never once crossed paths on the competition mat.