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Roy, sometime between the Tokyo and Mexico City Olympic Games.

On this, the last day of 2015, I’d like to thank everyone for their support of my blog – The Olympians. I have posted at least once every day since I started the blog on May 1. Out of about 300 posts, I’ve selected 25 that I personally like, in good part because I’ve had the great fortune to talk with the people mentioned in these stories.

  1. A Helicopter View of US-USSR Relations, Olympic Style
  2. American Gymnast Makoto Sakamoto and Memories of Home: Post-War Shinjuku
  3. Arnold Gordon (Part 1): Befriending Judy Garland at Manos in Shinjuku
  4. The Banning of Headgear in Boxing: The Convoluted World of Protecting Our Athletes
  5. Clumsy Handoff, Beautiful Result: A World Record Finish for the American 4X400 Relay Team in Tokyo
  6. Coach Hank Iba: The Iron Duke of Defense Who Led the Men’s Basketball Team to Gold in 1964
  7. Creativity by Committee: The 2020 Olympic Emblem and the Rio Olympic Mascots?
  8. Crowded, Noisy, Dirty, Impersonal: Tokyo in the 1960s
  9. The Dale McClements’ Diary: From Athlete to Activist
  10. Doug Rogers, Star of the Short Film “Judoka”: A Fascinating Look at Japan, and the Foreigner Studying Judo in the 1960s
  11. Escape from East Berlin in October 1964: A Love Story
  12. Escape from Manchuria: How the Father of an Olympian Left a Legacy Beyond Olympic Proportions
  13. Fame: Cover Girl and Canadian Figure Skater Sandra Bezic
  14. Frank Gorman: Harvard Star, Tokyo Olympian, and Now Inductee to the International Swimming Hall of Fame
  15. The Geesink Eclipse – The Day International Judo Grew Up
  16. India Beats Pakistan in Field Hockey: After the Partition, the Sporting Equivalent of War
  17. The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  18. On Being Grateful: Bob Schul
  19. Protesting Via Political Cartoons: Indonesia Boycotts the Tokyo Olympics
  20. The Sexist Sixties: A Sports Writers Version of “Mad Men” Would Make the Ad Men Blush
  21. “Swing” – The Danish Coxless Fours Found It, and Gold, in Tokyo
  22. Toby Gibson: Boxer, Lawyer, Convict
  23. Vesper Victorious Under Rockets Red Glare – A Dramatic Finish to One of America’s Greatest Rowing Accomplishments
  24. What it Means to Be an Olympian: Bill Cleary Remembers
  25. Who is that Bald-Headed Beauty: The Mystery of the Soviet Javelin Champion
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Doug Rogers in the documentary, “Judoka”, by director Josef Reeve

“So far in my film career, I’ve been an SS trooper, a submarine commander, and the fastest gun in the East,” said Doug Rogers of his part-time work in Japan in the early 1960s. “But I’m getting tired of being the villain. I want to be a hero for a while.”

And so, he became the hero. Doug Rogers not only won a silver medal in the first Olympic Judo championship ever at the Tokyo Summer Games in 1964, he starred in a short black and white documentary by director Josef Reeve – “Judoka“. (This link takes you to the full-length high def version.)

Rogers moved to Tokyo at the age of 19 in 1960 after learning all he could about judo in Montreal, Canada. The birthplace of Judo, Japan, was where judoka from all over the world aspired to train. Rogers was part of a small but growing number of foreign judoka desiring to train in the Kodokan, and grapple with the university students and policemen who made up the most competitive pool of judo talent in the world.

The documentary is a wonderful look inside the mind of Rogers as he reflects on his five years in Japan, on the judo training regimen, and more broadly, on life in Tokyo in the mid-1960s. The scenes of Rogers resting in his small apartment, walking his neighborhood streets and attempting to get in a crowded train are impactful, cleanly framed on black and white film.

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Screen capture of Rogers outside his apartment, from the documentary, “Judoka”

It’s the training scenes, up close with occasional slow motion takes, that demonstrate the intensity of the judoka’s training – the opening scene when they are running barefoot shouting “ichi…ni”, when they are doing push-ups, or when they are sending each other tumbling to the mat. Rogers talks about how fortunate he was to be able to train under legendary judoka sensei, Masahiko Kimura. Kimura’s training regimen was brutal, but effective. Rogers explained that they would do 600 push ups a day, sometimes a thousand, explaining that they all knew it was unreasonable to push their bodies that far, except that, they did indeed get stronger.

As Rogers said in the film, “No one before Kimura, no one after. I’m the only Westerner he ever taught. He said I could be champion. In fact he says I must be champion. I don’t think Kimura recognizes physical limitations. He just trains beyond whatever happens to come up. For me, he says he stays up nights thinking of ways to make me stronger, better. With him I can win now.”

The humbleness of the documentary’s production is echoed by the humility of Rogers’ words, when he ruminates on life in Japan. The film is only 18 minutes long, and yet you get a quick sense from the narrative that Rogers grew from a boy to a man in Japan. In a wonderful passage where he and another judoka named Morita are filmed at an empty Budokan (the stadium built for the Olympic Judo championships in 1964), Rogers reflects on how his thinking matured.

“I went into judo trying to be tough and be strong. But I found as you get more and more skillful, the desire to act big and tough, sort of works the other way. I know I have the skill now. I don’t have to talk about it.”

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Doug Rogers (far left), Isao Inokuma, Parnaoz Chikviladze and Anzor Kiknadze at the 1964 Olympics

Rogers would go on to become a judo champion as a member of the Takushoku University team in the All-Japan University Championships, as well as at the World Championships in Rio de Janeiro in 1965. He