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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 34 Olympic champions in the series, winners from 1976 to 2021, we now share the words of Idalys Ortiz, Olympic champion in London in 2012 in the +78 kg category.
Photo by David Finch / Getty Images.

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?

The London 2012 +78 kg podium.

“I was born with these qualities and I live with feelings of peace and security. All of these qualities have always been present but when I started practising judo it helped to put all these things together to be a champion. I needed to be clever, clear thinking, calm too; all of these things are necessary to be Olympic champion."

Phot by David Finch / Getty Images.

"Mentality is very important, always having goals you want to achieve. One quality I improved and worked hard at, towards becoming Olympic champion, is that of being professional in my training, competition and daily life. Judo is my life but also my work and I must use my mentality and professionalism to get there, to reach my goals.

When I was a small girl I grew up with the love of my father. He taught me to be strong when I needed to be strong, to be considerate and calm when I needed to be calm. This is necessary in judo, for sure."

Ortiz (CUB) vs Sugimoto (JPN) in the London 2012 Olympic Games +78 kg final.

"Every four years, for each new cycle a lot of athletes want to qualify. During that time a lot of them lose sight of the goal, which is not as simple as winning a gold medal. If you analyse the athletes there are, for example, maybe 33 who want to get the medals on their Olympic Games competition day but only 4 can win a medal. Of course it seems as if the most important thing is the medal but even more important is the route to it; visiting countries, meeting people, competing with a lot of them, being a good person and developing yourself. All of this period, this route and what I learned and earned from the humanity of it is truly important. This process, appreciating the route, helped me to take the medal."

An emotional victory in London.

"Winning Olympic gold didn’t change me, my personality didn’t change, but my mentality may have done a little, perhaps but in a good way. Logically, my point of view is that when you have a goal in life, when you want to do something and then you reach that goal, there is an understanding that you did the right things, behaved the right way and so you continue to try to be a good person. So, earning both of these things, the personal reward and the medal itself, in tandem, it is addictive. That’s why I continue to fight even now."


"I want to add that in all my contests, the most important part has not been to win against my opponents but to win against myself. This Idalys is better than the last Idalys and in this way I continue.”

London 2012.

Idalys Ortiz is currently qualifying for her 5th Olympic Games having won medals at all of the previous 4.

Photo by David Finch / Getty Images.