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’m very calm and even a little bit shy. When I was little I didn’t take judo seriously and never competed in the cadet category. I had ambition but was so shy. I did many activities such as dance classes, other sports and judo too but it wasn’t the most important. Then I went to a competition, at about ten years old, and I saw that I was different."
"When I was little my friends were going to competitions abroad but the coach didn’t take me because I wasn’t really good enough. Later he started to notice that I was always wanting to win and I was very persistent.
Despite being so shy and quiet, I’m very confident that if I want something I will do everything to achieve it. I’m happy to sacrifice things to chase my dreams and so I put all other things behind judo and focused solely on that. I would go home to rest after training and would already be thinking about the next training. I always know what I want. I go step by step, towards the one goal in my head. Even if I lose on the way there, I don’t lose my positivity or confidence, I keep going."
"I try all the time to improve my judo and bring something new. You could maybe notice that every month before the Tokyo Olympic Games, there was something small and new in my judo. I work on the tiny details and bring new things.”
For the Kosovan champions particularly, was there an element of their background and upbringing that contributed to their characters?
“We were raised to be so strong, children who came from the war in Kosovo. When we came out of that period we knew how to fight to survive. We have a lot of love both for and from our country. We worked to make our country proud but we also worked for ourselves and for our families and I think it made us stronger mentally."
"The medal didn’t change me, not at all. After I won, I said I am young and I have to focus again. I couldn’t take the time to enjoy life too much, especially with the change of category. I decided that -48 kg was closed and I must start again from the beginning with new opponents. It was a new challenge."
"People treat us differently as champions and so I have to talk to myself and keep my feet on the ground. I decided that the new start, the new category, challenging myself to a new beginning again would help me to not pay too much attention to those treating me like a champion.”