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David Douillet was the first westerner to become both world heavyweight and open weight champion, and the first Frenchman to clinch the World Championship heavyweight title, which he won four times overall.
One of the most fearsome competitors in judo history, David Douillet was the first westerner to become both world heavyweight and open weight champion, and the first Frenchman to clinch the World Championship heavyweight title, which he won four times overall. He ended his glittering career in style at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, successfully retaining his men's heavyweight title by beating world champion Shinichi Shinohara of Japan in the final.
Douillet’s career was effectively launched when Jean-Luc Rouge, France’s first world champion noted his impressive judo physique in 1975, during a training session in Rennes. "He was already six inches taller than the rest and, after seeing him perform on the mat, I immediately booked him a room at the training centre for France's sporting elite," said Rouge.
Douillet won his first Olympic medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games, clinching bronze in the 95kg class, and lifted his first world title in Canada the following year. In 1995, he successfully defended his world title, becoming the first westerner to hold both the world heavyweight and open weight crowns. In 1996, he won the Olympic gold medal in the 95kg class at the Atlanta Games and in 1997 he beat Shinohara in the final of the World Championship.
He had always planned to retire after the 2000 Sydney Games but there were doubts he would even be able to compete there because of a long-standing back complaint, But he battled back from injury in sensational style to win his second Olympic crown and a third medal, equalling the record set by his countryman Angelo Paris in the early eighties.
"I've come back a long way these last three years and I have mixed emotions," he said, after beating world champion Shinichi Shinohara of Japan in the Sydney final. "I am happy because I won the gold medal but I am also sad because I have had to turn this page in the book. This chapter has taken up half my life and now it has come to an end."