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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 22 Olympic champions in the series, winners from 1976 to 2021, we now share the words of Takanori Nagase, Tokyo 2021 Olympic champion in the -81kg category.
Takanori Nagase, -81 kg Olympic champion, Tokyo 2021.

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

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 don’t know if it’s a special or unique quality but I had a lot of passion for judo since the very beginning, when I first started practising judo. I think it’s also not special to say this but I never wanted to lose. Those two elements combined pushing me to train hard and consistently take the small steps needed towards becoming Olympic champion.

The 2021 -81 kg Olympic final.

I think everybody has the passion and everyone doesn’t want to lose so I considered it important to think systematically on top of those factors. I began to think of my competition day in Tokyo as day 0 and I planned backwards to ensure I was in the best shape by doing each correct thing at the correct time before that day.

My family also plays a big role in my life and looking back at 2017, before qualification began for the Tokyo Games, I was dealing with a big knee injury and they were a really important support then. They are with me through good and bad days. It was a really long journey with them, so performing well for my family was always a big motivating factor for me.

My character and values didn’t change once I became Olympic champion but I gained confidence in my plan and that transfers to other areas of my life. I take that confidence forwards towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

The -81 kg podium.