08/05/2010 3:56 AM
On Saturday, August 7, the Cyclones will be honoring Rusty Kanokogi, a Coney Island native and pioneer in women's sports. The late Kanokogi has been called the "Mother of Judo" for her tireless campaigns on behalf of women in the sport, which began after she was stripped of a medal because of her gender.
In 1959, 24-year-old Rusty Kanokogi disguised herself as a man so she could enter an all-male judo competition at the YMCA sports club. Even though her team won, she was forced to give her medal back for breaking the rules. It set her off on a life-long campaign for women's judo to be properly recognized.
Rusty became a successful competitor and instructor and even married the Japanese national men's coach. She lobbied tirelessly for women's judo to be included in the Olympic games. When she finally succeeded at Seoul in 1988, Rusty became known as the "Mother of Judo". Now, 50 years on, the medal she had removed at the YMCA has finally been returned to her at a special ceremony.
Her goal of women’s judo being part of the Olympics began to materialize in 1984, when it was made an exhibition sport for the Los Angeles Games. Four years later in Seoul, South Korea, it had medal status, and Kanokogi witnessed it firsthand as the United States coach.
On Saturday, there will be a judo demonstration on the field before the game, and Rusty will be honored for her contributions to the sport and her battle for equality.