LEGENDARY judo coach Steve Pullen MBE, who coaches players of all ages and abilities in Urmston, has joined an elite and distinguished group with his award of Seventh Dan.

Only about 20 of these awards have been given in the UK and Pullen’s great service and success in the sport are very deservingly recognised with the Seventh Dan.

He said: “I have been a Sixth Dan for over 12 years and have been coaching judo at Olympic, Paralympic and international level for many years.

“I have been involved in judo for over 60 years and have been awarded ‘Coach of the Year’ several times and also been nominated as national coach at five Paralympic Games.

“I was awarded the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 1989 and coached European Champions Ryan and Rowena Birch and Simon Jackson, who won gold medals at three consecutive Olympics, and I was awarded the MBE in 1989.

“I coach at various venues each week including George H Carnall in Urmston, Manchester University and Cheadle Drill Hall and my students were delighted for me to become a Seventh Dan.”

Former Olympian Rowena Birch added: “Seventh Dan – these are a rare breed.

"Very few are awarded and all nominations must be verified as having made an exceptional contribution to judo by the European Judo Federation.

“Steve hasn’t just made a contribution to judo, but to many people’s lives as a whole – all they have to do is walk into the dojo (even if they have no plans to go on the mat).

“He then slowly reels them in. Steve coaches the person, not the sport, and has what I call ‘magic dust’ between his fingers – he just seems to sense what’s needed and then knows what to say and when to say it to get the most out of people.

“He helps them grow, learn and get more pleasure out of their lives.

"He is a dad figure for so many of us.”