There are only 150 days left until the Paris Olympic Games opens its doors to our judo family, inviting hundreds of interviewees from all over the globe to test themselves in the search for the most coveted title in the world of sport: Olympic champion!

There are numerous markers around the city of Paris showing just how close the Games is now, from the countdown clock sitting under the Eiffel Tower beside the river, the increasing signage and the various promotional campaigns on TV, radio and online. Residents, athletes, broadcasters, international federations, emergency services, news agencies, no-one is excluded from this logistical challenge or the celebratory anticipation being enjoyed.

Photo courstesy of Gabi Juan / EJU.

On this special day, some of the top World Judo Tour athletes gave their thoughts on the months ahead.

Andreja Leski (SLO), double world medallist

“Already I felt a great atmosphere created by the French fans at the grand slam earlier this month and this is just a tiny bit of what to expect at the Olympic Games. To win a medal here is a dream, especially in Paris. I like the vibe of the city.”

What does it feel like to have Clarisse in the category, on her home ground? Doesn’t that raise the tension? “It's a positive thing! She’s among the best in the world and so to fight her and perhaps win an Olympic medal here is even more historic. I have already had two world finals with Clarisse and although I will hide my cards for now,” she smiles, “I’m preparing to do my best to change the result. I think I won’t do more than 5 events before the Games now; finding the balance is tough, to care for myself but also be prepared.”

Andreja Leski (SLO) and Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Photo courstesy of Gabi Juan / EJU.

An Baul (KOR), world champion and double Olympic medallist

“I never came to the Eiffel Tower before and I hadn’t seen the clock before now, not face to face, only from far away before. This is exciting; there is really not much time left. I do like fighting in Paris and have 2 gold a silver and a bronze here from the grand slam. The atmosphere always makes me excited to compete and I hope to use that feeling again at the Olympic Games while fighting for my third Olympic medal.”

Chelsie Giles (GBR) and Baul An (KOR). Photo courstesy of Gabi Juan / EJU.

Chelsie Giles (GBR), world & Olympic medallist

“I’m enjoying the travel and training towards this Olympic goal. 100 days before the Tokyo Games I was training in Nekoda’s house with very limited training partners, due to Covid, so to be here in Paris at the camp is a big difference.

It’s a great feeling to win my first Paris medal in the year of the Olympics. I think it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere this summer, especially when we compare it as we didn’t have a crowd in Tokyo. It’s more about excitement than pressure at this stage as I enjoy the build up, I enjoy improving. The lead-up is about getting the training and picking up the points needed to secure good seeding.

There will be two Olympic champions in my group, Distria and Uta, and so we aren’t making it easy for ourselves but whoever I get on the day, I have to just go out there and do my best.”

Alina Boehm (GER), double European champion

“The countdown clock here counts the days but I don’t really have the days in my mind, I prefer to count in baby steps. Seeing it though, gives me the Olympic feeling that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl. I hope to be here again this summer after just experiencing the feeling while fighting at the Bercy. I feel the passion for judo in Paris and so it’s special that the Games is there."

Alina Boehm (GER) in Paris. Photo courstesy of Gabi Juan / EJU.

"Thinking back to winning the Europeans gives me goosebumps. I was overwhelmed with emotions but it gave me confidence in my judo. I think about this special medal a lot.

Yes, we have a domestic rivalry in Germany at -78 kg and it’s a tough battle that will go all the way to the worlds. I try to be the best version of myself at each event and enjoy the ride though. I prefer not thinking in days, setting tiny goals and going from step to step, giving each moment my best and eventually the Games will be here as perhaps my last tiny step in this cycle.

I would love to fight the French judoka in the final of the Games, an epic moment, and to win it would be incredible. I always tell myself that the cheering is for me even if it’s in France and clearly not aimed that way.”

These thoughts and feelings are shared by many of the athletes hoping to compete in Paris this summer, not just in judo. The build-up is accelerating and the WJT events continue, this week in Tashkent, taking our sport a step closer to knowing what the line-ups will be in just 5 months from now.

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