Willem "Wim" Ruska (29 August 1940 – 14 February 2015) was a judoka from the Netherlands. He is the first athlete to win two gold medals in Judo in one Olympics – in the heavyweight and absolute categories in 1972.[1]

Wim Ruska
Wim Ruska 1968b.jpg
Wim Ruska in 1968
Personal information
Full nameWillem Ruska
Nickname(s)Tarzan of the Tatami
Born(1940-08-29)29 August 1940
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Died14 February 2015(2015-02-14) (aged 74)
Height1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight110 kg (240 lb)
Rank   8th dan in Judo

Judo careerEdit

He started learning judo at the Dutch Navy, later traveling to Japan for further training. In the 1960s and 1970s, under the training of Jon Bluming,[2] he won seven European titles, five in the +93 kg category (1966–67, 1969, 1971–72) and two in the open category (1969 and 1972).[3] He furthermore won two world titles (1967 and 1971) and two Olympic titles.[4] His success at the 1972 Summer Olympics was overshadowed by the Munich massacre that took place days before.[5]

He retired after the 1972 Olympics[1] and later took part in professional wrestling.[6]

Professional wrestling careerEdit

Ruska competed between 1976 and 1980 for the New Japan Pro-Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation promotions. He had over 150 pro wrestling matches, in some of which he was the tag team partner of fellow judoka Allen Coage.[7]

Match with Ivan GomesEdit

In 1976, during a tour through Brazil, Ruska was slated to fight a special, high-level bout against Ivan Gomes, a famous vale tudo fighter and former NJPW wrestler himself, on August 7 at the Maracanã Stadium. Previous negotiations about the match's results and length were troublesome, and as a result, there was tension between the parts.

During the bout, refereed by Mr. Takahashi, Gomes attacked Ruska with real strikes and illegal closed-fisted punches, which Ruska answered by landing a similar right punch, and the match became a shoot right after. The slightly heavier Brazilian dragged Ruska to the ground with a guillotine choke, but Ruska escaped and mounted him. After becoming entangled with the ring ropes, a bloody Gomes captured Ruska's back and tried a rear naked choke, to which Ruska grabbed the ropes to break action as per the match's rules. However, the Brazilian refused to release Ruska, so the referee, upon observing most of Gomes' body was outside the ropes, called for countout on him in order to end the match at 9:03.[8] There was controversy about whether the choke and the rope escape were effective or not.[9][10]

The event's crowds believed Gomes had been wronged with the decision, and a riot almost broke out until NJPW president Antonio Inoki came out and calmed them down. Still, repercussion in Brazil was negative, with pundits arguing about who should be considered the victor, even although some acknowledged Gomes had started the affair with an illegal move.[11] As a consequence, the Athletic Commission of Rio de Janeiro banned Takahashi and Ruska from all sport competitions.[12] The Japanese considered Ruska the winner, as Gomes had to receive nine stitches around the right eye for damage suffered in the brawl, while Ruska was comparatively in much better condition.[13] It was also reported Inoki secretly gifted Ruska a money bonus to compensate his ban from competing.[12]

A 90 seconds excerpt of the brawl was shown in 1995 in NJPW's TV show, World Pro Wrestling. During the show, Inoki compared the match to a mixed martial arts fight from Ultimate Fighting Championship.[14]

Late careerEdit

Ruska was a close friend to sambo world champion Chris Dolman, also a Bluming understudy. They had a falling out after Dolman joined Akira Maeda's Fighting Network Rings while Ruska was part of Antonio Inoki's New Japan Pro-Wrestling, but they mended it in September 1997, when Inoki visited Holland along with Naoya Ogawa. They stayed in contact until Ruska's death in 2015.[15]

Later lifeEdit

In 2001 Ruska suffered a major stroke which left him physically disabled.[1]

In 2013 he was inducted in the Hall of Fame of the International Judo Federation.[16]

Ruska was admitted to a nursing home in 2014. Ruska died on 14 February 2015 at the age of 74 and was survived by his wife, two children and five grandchildren.[17]



  1. ^ a b c Ruska. Triomf en tragiek van een judokampioen Archived 14 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine. thomasrap.nl
  2. ^ Donn F. Draeger, Jon Bluming, Letters to the Editor, Black Belt magazine, December 1966
  3. ^ Obtained results (dutch). Wimruska.nl. Retrieved on 16 November 2012.
  4. ^ Wim Ruska. sports-reference.com
  5. ^ "Wim Ruska op 74-jarige leeftijd overleden" (in Dutch). Algemeen Dagblad. 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Wim Ruska Biographical information". olympedia.org. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  7. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Matches « Willem Ruska « Wrestler-Datenbank « CAGEMATCH - The Internet Wrestling Database".
  8. ^ Keisuke Shibusawa, Gracie Jiu Jitsu no Itsusashu, 1995, Nihon Sports
  9. ^ Ken Yanagisawa, 1976 Antonio Inoki, 2007
  10. ^ Ivan Gomes, BJJ Heroes
  11. ^ Marcial Serrano (15 June 2016). O Livro Proibido do Jiu-Jítsu Vol. 6. Clube de Autores. ISBN 978-85-914075-8-3.
  12. ^ a b Shinji Ishii, Martial Arts Death Battle - The stormy story of the fools who wanted to be the strongest, Takarajimasha, 1994
  13. ^ Keishuke Shibusawa, Mat World Scandal, 2006
  14. ^ The Fierce! History of Violence in Matches (壮絶!喧嘩マッチ烈伝) DVD box
  15. ^ "ウィリアム・ルスカとクリス・ドールマンの物語~日本マット界に多大な影響、大親友としての別離と氷解 - プロレス/格闘技 カクトウログ".
  16. ^ "Judolegende Wim Ruska overleden" (in Dutch). de Telegraaf. 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.

External linksEdit