Judo takes a back seat as Rick receives royal recognition

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BEST known in Scotland for his prowess as a judo player, Borders-based Rick Kenney has been honoured for his contribution to a lesser-known sport.

The executive president of the Commonwealth Judo Association, vice-president of JudoScotland and 7th Dan Judoka travelled to Kensington Palace to receive an award for Sambo wrestling from HRH Prince Michael of Kent at a star-studded reception.

Sambo is a Russian martial art, the word being an acronym for SAMooborona Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as “self defence without weapons”. It has roots in Japanese judo, international styles of wrestling, plus some traditional styles of wrestling.

Rick’s involvement in the sport began in the 1970s when the British Wrestling Association recognised Sambo as a third style of wrestling alongside the Olympic disciplines of freestyle and Greco-Roman. There was a possibility that Sambo might be added to the Moscow Olympics programme in 1980 and Rick, who at that time was a GB judo international, won the British Sambo title as a lightweight in 1973 and 1974 and competed in a number of international tournaments in the then USSR and in Azerbaijan. Due to the boycott of the 1980 Olympics, however, and political pressures of the time, Sambo did not feature in the Moscow Games and the sport lessened in popularity in the UK as a result. However, it began to grow again in the mid 80s and is now a Commonwealth and World recognised sport in its own right.

The reception was to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Sambo wrestling having been founded in the USSR in 1938.

Hosted by the International and Commonwealth Sambo Federations, the event was attended by many Russian sportspersons, business leaders and also Tessa Sanderson, former Olympic javelin gold medallist.

Rick was presented with the award for helping to popularise the sport in the 1970s.

Rick told The Southern: “It was a real honour to receive this award and a great opportunity to renew friendships from those early days in the sport.”

Rick concentrated in his judo career from 1978 onwards and became a successful coach and team manager.