Ryoko Tamura-Tani is one of the few women to have won medals at five consecutive Olympic Games, winning a judo medal at every Olympics from 1992-2008, all in the extra-lightweight class. This was highlighted by her gold medals in 2000 and 2004, the second gold coming after she had married Japanese baseball star Yoshitomo Tani. She was dominant at the World Championships, winning a record seven titles, in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2007, after a bronze medal in 1991. Tamura-Tani first came to prominence in 1991, at only 15-years-old, when she won the Fukuoka International tournament. She also won gold medals at the 1994 Asian Games and the 1995 Universiade. She was particularly proud of her 2007 World Championship, coming shortly after giving birth to her first child.
Tamura-Tani, nicknamed “Yawara-chan” early in her career after a popular cartoon character, was immensely popular in Japan, where judo is the national sport. The Ryoko characters in the World Heroes and Fighter’s History video games are loosely based on her. In July 2010 Tamura-Tani was elected to the upper house of the Japanese diet as a member of the Japanese Democratic Party. At the time she was still preparing to compete at the 2012 Olympics, but late in 2010 she announced her competitive retirement to focus on her political career.