James Steven Bregman
Bregman competed in the middleweight division on the U.S. judo team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the first Games at which judo was an Olympic event. In his preliminary pool, Bregman defeated Gabriel Goldschmied of Mexico on a uchimata makikomi (inner leg throw) and toppled Peter Paige of Australia with the same move (in 2:45). In the quarterfinals, Bregman then scored two half-points on Argentina's Rodolfo Perez for the victory and a place in the semifinals.
In his semifinal match, Bregman faced Wolfgang Hofmann of Germany, and was robbed of a victory by the referee. Ahead by a half-point, Bregman was lifted in the air by Hofmann when the referee told the contestants to stop. Hofmann did not hear the official and continued the hold (an armlock), and Bregman tapped out before his arm could be broken. Although he had apparently stopped the match, the referee reversed the call and gave the full point to Hofmann. The "score after the whistle" robbed Bregman of a chance at the gold medal, and instead he was awarded the bronze. Bregman was still the first American to win an Olympic medal in judo, and the U.S. would not medal again in the sport until 1976.
Considered the greatest technical judoist America has ever produced, Bregman won the 1964 U.S. middleweight judo championship before competing in the Olympics. He took up the sport only because as a 12-year old boy he suffered from chronic bronchitis and a doctor recommended an indoor sport to help his condition. By age 15, Bregman had earned his blackbelt and was gaining a reputation along the East Coast. After graduating from high school, Bregman continued his judo education in Japan. He said: "I had won the Eastern regional championships in the United States, and the only way to really improve my technique was to work with the Japanese. I attended Sophia University in Tokyo, a Jesuit school. I majored in economics but managed to practice six days a week with the top intercollegiate teams in Tokyo."
With the support of his Japanese friends and coaches, Bregman returned to the United States with the goal of making the Olympic team. Jim succeeded, and following his Olympic triumph, he won gold medals at both the Maccabiah Games and Pan American Games in 1965. Later that year, Bregman finished third at the World Championships, the first medal at the Worlds by an American judoist, then announced his retirement from competition. Since then, Bregman has been active in the American Judo community and is currently the president of the U.S. Judo Association. In 1993, he was among the charter class of the U.S. Judo Hall of Fame. Bregman is currently the President of DeCo International, Ltd., a consulting firm focusing on Native American business development activities.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Nov. 17, 1941
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Sydney 2000, (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999)