Taking care of the sport aspects of the competition in Tokyo is Leandra Freitas, Assistant to the Head Sport Director of the IJF, performing the role of an Event Sport Director at the IBSA Grand Prix.
“I am responsible for making sure that the event runs smoothly. It is important to ensure the work of all departments, including referees, IT and judogi control. I am here to assist all departments and fix issues if there are any. As I am doing this alone on the field for the first time, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Lisa Allan, IJF Secretary General, Mr Vladimir Barta, IJF Head Sport Director, and Mr Claudiu Chimoiu, IJF Events Director, for the support and guidance that I have received from them.”
The competition is held in the same venue as the IJF Grand Slam and we asked Leandra why this is important for the athletes.
“The event is held in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, which is a huge venue. We had to make a few adjustments, changed the layout of the mats to fit IBSA standards, moved the warm-up area to be in the field of play, for better access for the athletes, and made some other changes.
Having the event in the same venue as the grand slam is very important for IBSA athletes; they feel like a part of the judo family, fully included. Also, they are being refereed by top-class referees of the World Judo Tour, which makes them feel honoured; they know how important they are within our judo community.”
It is also important to notice that the number of athletes is rising. “This is the first IBSA event where we have the round-robin system in only one category, proving that judo is becoming more popular among blind people. This also shows, without a doubt, that we will have a beautiful Paralympic Games in Paris. This is the last event of the year but there are still six months of qualification ahead and I am sure that there will be many judoka taking part in those events.”
Leandra was a high level athlete herself and that means she is fully invested in the athlete experience but that is not restricted to the IJF World Judo Tour level. She also talks about how people with disabilities can be involved in judo beyond competition. “For example, if the person has motor disabilities in the body, they can play different games related to judo and develop mentally. One of the game examples is Minecraft and the judo world inside of it.”
Leandra’s commitment to athletes at all levels is among her many strengths and while she also loves to learn in new situations, the Tokyo IBSA Grand Prix has been a perfect synergy; there is no better example of jita kyoei.