TAICHUNG, Taiwan - Osama bin Laden stood out not just because of his height but because of his serious, conservative demeanor, according to a Taiwan man who says the al-Qaida leader, killed by US troops on Monday, was a student in his judo classes in Saudi Arabia.
Jimmy Wu, a top Taiwan judo coach, told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a tournament in the central city of Taichung that he came across bin Laden when coaching the Saudi Arabian national judo team from 1981 to 1991.
Bin Laden, whom Wu then knew only as "Osama", attended classes at the judo center while still a university student. He was too tall for judo, and Wu said he advised him against the sport, but he was insistent so Wu accepted him.
"I didn't know the name bin Laden then," Wu said. "After 9/11 (attacks on New York and Washington), I was invited to a seminar, and some of my former students there said 'oh Jimmy, Osama, now he's our hero'. I was surprised and I looked for some pictures and I said 'oh this guy' and I started to have some memory of him."
Wu showed Reuters photographs of himself and a tall, thin, bearded, serious young man with a mop of black hair whom he said was Osama. Osama attended lessons two to three times a week but Wu never saw him again after 1984.