Beijing Olympics mark new start for Rudy Hachache
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September 22, 2008—
He was a pharmacist and a rugby leaguer until he became one of the top ten judo players in the world.
Rudy Hachache ‘05 competed among 34 heavyweight judokas at the Beijing Olympics, reaching ninth place. The experience has prompted him to make judo his full-time job.
“My goal is a medal in the next Olympics,” he said. He plans to sell his pharmacy and dedicate all his resources to that goal. Before the next summer games, he is likely to be seen in upcoming competitions such as the U.S. Open; the 52-country Jeux de la Francophonie in Lebanon; the World Championships in the Netherlands; and the Asian Games in 2010.
Hachache found out he was going to China one week before the games began. He qualified because last spring he came out third in the Asian Championships, which he entered after becoming the Lebanese national champion, following a seven-year break from the sport he had practiced since childhood.
“I trained two weeks, I played the Lebanese championship, and a week later I was in Asia,” he said. “When I got the confirmation [about the Olympics] I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it. I called the president of the federation twice just to confirm that I’d be going,” he said.
What with the flurry of preparations that ensued, and the rush of the competition, he didn’t grasp the impact of this turn of events until it was over.
Unlike the millions of spectators, he explained, “the athletes don’t get to see the Olympics.”
“I was maybe the only athlete with just my coach,” he said, compared to the entourages of most other competitors.
The five-time Arab champion got started in judo at age 12. Later, as an LAU student and alum, he excelled at rugby. For seven years he played with, and briefly coached, the famed LAU Immortals and was also on the Lebanese national team.
But the Olympic experience rekindled Hachache’s passion for judo.
His trainer, Fadi Saikali, says Hachache has done well despite the lack of adequate training facilities in Lebanon. “With a little more help, I’m sure he can take a medal,” he said.
Hachache says conditions for Lebanese athletes have improved little in recent years. He would like the government to provide training grounds abroad.
In a small country, he said, it is difficult to find peers to practice with. “In Lebanon I haven’t got anyone above 100 kilos to play with,” he said.
But “we’ve got really good players from Lebanon that have a lot of potential,” he said. He encourages young people to take up judo because it’s a non-aggressive sport that builds character and self-discipline.
Hachache recalls how LAU helped him when he had to compete abroad during classes, and how it recognized his achievements with the Immortals. He says LAU creates a friendly atmosphere that is good for training, and his fellow rugby players are now his best friends.
He was one of six Lebanese athletes competing in Beijing.