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Interviewing an Olympic champion is something special and always delivers thought-provoking words and ideas; it’s a unique kind of education. Following the stories of the first 20 Olympic champions in the series, winners from 1976 to 2021, we now share the words of Naohisa Krasniqi, Tokyo 2021 Olympic champion in the -60 kg category.

We introduced the statistics, the almost impossible feat and the question in our first article in the series, which can be found here:

The Tokyo 2021 -60 kg medallists.

A reminder of the question:

It could be said that to be in the company of an Olympic judo champion is to be presented with someone whom has reached an absolute pinnacle, a ceiling which cannot be surpassed; there is nowhere further to ascend in the world of sport. We often find Olympic champions speaking with freedom and certainty, unafraid to share an opinion, speaking of their lives and paths with confidence. For many we feel there is peace, and that can be magnetic and inspiring.

So the question is, did they become Olympic champion because of that character or did they become that person having won the Olympic gold medal?

“I became Olympic champion due to my character and an undying passion and love for judo and winning. I didn’t just want to not lose but to always win. I had a great deal of support from family and friends due to this passion; they could see it in me."

A focused win in round 2 in Tokyo, 2021.

"The Olympic Games is only every four years though, so to win it you also need to be lucky and I was lucky! On top of that luck and my character, I envisioned myself at the Olympics and used that vision to help me prepare for the Games.

I started judo at the age of 6. I was living in the suburbs of Tokyo. In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I was good at judo or not but once I started competing I realised I was better than my peers. The first time I truly thought that I could win an Olympic title was when I was 18 and I was already competing in seniors. I was beating some of the best seniors and so my dreams then started to become goals.”

Do you believe the Olympic gold medal changed you?

“Winning the Games changed my life and opened many opportunities for me; it is a life-changing event. I think I was able to develop as a human being not just because of the medal but because of the pathway and processes that led me to achieving it; that is what changed me. I think it’s special in more ways than just being a champion; achieving my dream made me a better person.

An incredible semi-final against Yeldos Smetov (KAZ).

I never really imagined not winning it; I was quite certain I would win. So, I can’t say how it would have affected me had I not won on that day in Tokyo. It is almost like holding the fate of Japanese judo that once you are selected, your job is to do your best, it is ingrained. I did my best.”

Naohisa Takato did his best.