MOSCOW, October 10 (RIA Novosti)
Russian President Vladimir Putin was elevated to judo’s elite Wednesday when the sport’s world governing body presented him with the eighth Dan belt, the third-highest honor.
Putin received the accolade, three days after turning 60, from the International Judo Federation, which called him “a perfect ambassador for our sport” because of his position as head of state.
“It is a great honor for our international federation, as well as for the entire judo community, to count among us a very high personality of his reputation and standing," IJF president Marius Vizer said.
"President Putin represents a high expression of the Judo Values in the world."
Putin will not need a new belt, as the red-and-white stripes of an eighth Dan belt are identical to his previous sixth Dan belt. Both are rated higher than black belt.
The ranking is known as 'Hachidan' in Japanese. Only a handful of practitioners have reached the highest tenth Dan level.
In August, Putin traveled to Britain to watch Olympic judo at London 2012 and cheered from the stands as Russia’s Tagir Khaibulaev won gold before rushing to be photographed with him.
Putin was judo champion of his home town Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in his youth and starred in the instructional video Let's Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin in 2008.
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New ties between Russia and Japan would mark not only a breakthrough in their relations but also a significant shift in Northeast Asia’s political dynamic. Both are secondary players in a region overshadowed by an increasingly assertive China, which has not hesitated to push against the boundaries of its neighbors.