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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 31 Olympic champions in the series, winners from 1976 to 2021, we now share the words of Fabio Basile, Olympic champion in Rio De Janeiro in 2016 in the -66 kg category.
Fabio Basile, Olympic champion.

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 journeys 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?

“Since I was a child my dream was to become Olympic champion. I wanted it, to see my family happy and smiling and not having to deal with problems. I wanted to become this to touch the sky. I imagined from the age of about 6 the feeling you have when you are on the top of the world and your dream becomes reality. But, you know what happens when you get there? Nothing. I just remember the half a second after I threw An Baul, an unbelievable energy inside of me and then it was gone."

Fabio Basile winning the -66 kg Olympic final, 2016.

"Becoming Olympic champion was not because I was talented but because I was beaten a lot of times on the mat and also in life and I always chose to stand up. Why is it that only one becomes Olympic champion? In life, 99% of people stop when they get resistance, they surrender when it becomes difficult. No Olympic champion ever stopped."

"My behaviour didn’t really change when I won. Maybe for a year I changed my clothes and some superficial things but once I reflected and calmed it down I realised that the money and title themselves didn’t actually make me happy and so I returned to my old style.

Happiness comes to me when I fall asleep at night knowing that I did my best that day and gave my all to take every opportunities."

"After that moment, my life became very difficult. I had a lot of injuries and some have been serious, so I have struggled to bring my best. I trained so hard, even more than before Olympics but my body doesn’t allow me to be at my best. I don’t run from challenge but when I go to the mat and try to do randori at 100%, one part of my body says yes and another says no. When I can’t bring my best, this kills my mentality.

He, An Baul, was stronger than me that day but one minute before the final I saw his eyes; I didn’t see a light in his eyes. How many athletes have lost semi-finals at some point but at the Games to lose there is to change your life. Many champions take that chance and others fight not to lose. After winning my semi-final, I knew when I looked at him that I was in full flow and could win the final too. That moment, maybe I would never have that chance again and so those 4 minutes were do or die!"

The 2016 -66 kg Olympic podium.

"Sometimes it’s impossible to translate feelings into words. I didn’t win a lot in these last two years, not like before but I think I improved myself more than ever before. I feel like I found different limits. When I saw the draw with Maruyama in Paris in February 2024, I was happy. I come to fight the best in the world. I’m like a child who loves cars and comes to the sales room to find a Ferrari. When I fight I feel free, I feel truly alive. I never want the time on the mat to finish.“