my own goal Neil Adams

THE former world judo champion and double Olympic silver medallist, who retired in 1988, is now the national coach. On the eve of the British Judo Open, he recalls receiving an unusual welcome when he was new to the international scene . . .
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SOMETHING very strange happened at the European Championships in East Berlin in 1977. I was fighting the same guy I fought in the final of the 1980 Olympic Games, an Italian called Ezio Gamba. Gamba is a very good friend of mine now - he certainly wasn't at the time.

We were in the final together and I remember I caught him really well and turned him over. We were in a tangled position and my leg was over the top of him which gave me the chance of getting a submission off him. We were very closely matched so this was quite an unusual success. Something even more unusual then occurred, though: he bit me on my backside. This had never happened before and has certainly not happened since. I leapt to my feet and explained to the referee that I would show him what had happened by dropping my trousers. I wanted to show him the mark. This was the middle of the final, though, and the referee wouldn't let me.

Gamba had just done it to get me off and this worked because while I was arguing, he got up and moved away. I went on to win the fight but I still wonder how far Gamba would have gone if I had continued holding him down. I'm just glad I wasn't lying on top of him the other way round.

That, however, was not as bad as my introduction to international judo at the junior international championships in Tel Aviv in Israel. I was 16, in the under-18 team, and so I was the junior of juniors. The British team was very strong at the time and you had to go through the ranks as a team member. They were also very heavily into initiations which I'd heard about through a friend who had been initiated in Norway. He'd been stripped naked, covered in boot polish from head to toe and then locked out of his hotel on a freezing cold night. So I knew to watch out.

One night in Tel Aviv, we were walking down through the red light district; it was good fun - I'd never seen a red light district before. I was relaxed as I had already fought and I'd won the junior championship. Suddenly, the other guys pounced on me, dragged me inside one of the "shops" and gave some money to a woman. This, it was clear, was my initiation. I started going crazy as it became clear that the team had clubbed together to pay for me - 16 - to go with an Israeli prostitute.

Somehow I managed to escape their grip and five of them fell over one another. They then paid the woman twice as much on the condition that she caught me, so there ensued the scenario where this Israeli prostitute was chasing me down the middle of a Tel Aviv high street, trying to get hold of me.

I just ran for my life; it was like I was running away from somebody who was going to shoot me in the head. I then hid for about three hours, terrified, walking around the shops and avoiding everyone. Eventually, when all seemed quiet, I sneaked into my hotel room - and got jumped on by about 30 of the team. I then got initiated, but I can't possibly say how.

We've had trouble with initiations since. The armed forces guys were particularly bad: one of their judo boys was tied down naked in the middle of a lawn at one of the armed forces camps and was left there for about three hours. This certainly did not go down very well, particularly because that day at the camp, there was rather an important army officer visiting. We have had to stop initiation ceremonies now!