In March 2022, Vitaly Gligor was walking down Decebal Street in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. He spotted Ina Cernei walking with her father and, to his great surprise, noticed that she had a visual impairment. He decided to approach them on the street, which in Moldova is a rather unusual thing to do.

“I really needed to work up the courage to stop them but I just had to know her story, so I couldn’t help myself but approach them,” said Vitaly.

Understandably, Ina’s father was a little defensive at first but he soon saw that Vitaly was just trying to help and was happy to offer judo classes to his daughter. Once they heard the name Oleg Cretul, world-famous Para judoka and president of the Moldovan Paralympic Committee, they were all smiles and decided to give in to Vitaly’s kind offer.

Ina Cernei and Vitaly Gligor

The Beginning “At first I thought judo was easy,” begins Ina when she recalls her first judo session. “Then as we progressed, I realised it is not so easy at all.”

Prior to judo, Ina had a series of blood pressure problems and was on daily medication. She struggled to run around the dojo let alone complete a full training session.

Team Moldova

Vitaly adds; “At the beginning, I thought this woman wouldn’t be able to become a sportsperson but looking back, I understand she was in a difficult mental state. She was married and then divorced and was looking for any reason to want to live. Judo was probably her last solution to have a purpose. Day by day she showed me how strong she is inside and how strong her spirit is. Sometimes I use her as an example for the rest of our athletes, the men's and women’s teams, because her spirit and inner strength is incredible.”

A few months into training, Ina’s blood pressure stabilised and since then she is not required to take any medication at all and she’s feeling great! She lost weight, gained confidence and most importantly has purpose in life.

Losing Sight Ina competes in the J1 -57kg category, but up until the age of 19, she had seen the world in all colours. She had suffered from glaucoma, which is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of the eye. Ina’s situation really regressed by the age of 18. A year later she had a big decision to make.

Ina was a singer

“The doctors told me the only option left was to have surgery on my eye, which would involve removing it and replacing it with a prosthetic eye. This was the day I realised I would never see the world the same way again.”

After the surgery and before meeting the gentle way, Ina was a singer and a masseur. While it might seem exciting to some, Ina recalls it being pretty basic as her emotional state at this point was rather sorrowful.

First steps into judo

Judo for Life Those in the judo family understand the values and potential of our sport. Ina didn't think something like this existed.

“When Vitaly told me he could change my life through judo, I thought it was an unrealistic statement. Today I can say this: judo is my life now! It gave me a feeling of love and a reason to live. Judo challenges me every day to do better. I haven’t had that before. Judo allows me to grow. I am a confident person and not afraid of anything. I don’t know what will happen in the future but I will never stop judo."

“I am just so happy to see her smiling. When we started working together, she was mentally and emotionally down. Now we are joking, smiling and she has beautiful judo. I could not ask for more,” Vitaly adds with a warm smile.

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