Geesink was an imposing figure who stood at 1.98m. He won his first World Championship title in 1961. This was the first time the title had been won by a participant from outside Japan.
At the 1964 Tokyo Games, the host nation was expected to sweep all four weight classes. The Japanese promptly won the first three. But the giant Dutchman defeated Japanese national champion Kaminaga Akio in convincing fashion to claim the gold medal in the open class.
To celebrate his victory, Geesink’s teammates rushed onto the tatami to hoist him on their shoulders. But Geesink quickly dismissed them with a gesture of his arm. Before joining his teammates in celebration, he first bowed to Kaminaga, acknowledging his opponent. This courtesy left the 15,000 spectators in awe.
In 1965, Geesink won another World Championship, this time in the heavyweight category. Two years later, he was presented with the 10th Dan, a distinction very rarely given to a judoka.