Dear Judoka,

Fabio BASILE (ITA): Olympic champion

Sally CONWAY (GBR): Olympic, world and European medalist

Megan FLETCHER (IRL): multiple IJF World Tour medalist

Chelsie GILES (GBR): multiple IJF World Tour medalist

Mikail ÖZERLER (TUR): world and European medalist

Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO): Olympic, world and European champion

I’m writing a short, positive piece on what you are looking forward to most post-covid-19, what motivates you and what you have been missing. I would love to hear your view. I hope these questions have obvious answers for you, that are easy to write with passion, from the heart.

1. Who have you missed most, face-to-face and why? How have you kept in contact with them?

Fabio, “In this period I have not seen any member of my family and I miss them, but I must remain focused and in a position to be able to train to win.

Sally, “I’ve really missed my friends, meeting up with them, giving them a big hug. I miss being able to call in and visit them on my way back from training, even if its for 10 minutes, just to check in and say hi. I miss chats over coffee and of course I miss the coffee! I miss my family a lot too. I don’t get to see them that often normally but not having the option to fly and see them for a weekend or jump in my car to visit can be hard at times, but as long as everyone’s safe & happy, that’s the most important thing. What would we do without FaceTime? That really has made a massive difference!”

Sally keeping in contact with her dad, Mark. Training together online has been fun.

Megan, “I have really missed seeing all my friends. A few of my closest friends have had babies through lockdown so as much as FaceTime is great to keep in touch I cannot wait to go and meet them, when things calm down.”

Chelsie, “I’ve missed my family the most, especially my sisters. I’ve been able to see them once from a safe distance, but they were in a car and it wasn’t the same. I’ve been face-timing them frequently as well as catching up with my nan via phone calls."

Mikail, “I am in the great position of being at home with my family, so I have really missed my teammates from Turkey the most. We speak on WhatsApp mostly or by video chat.”

Tina, “I missed most some of my training buddies and family members. I am glad that I live in a time when we have smart phones, internet and other devices that we can use to keep in touch with other people. I can’t imagine how it would be if this situation would have occurred 20 or 30 years ago.”

2. If you had no obligations and no financial limitations, what would be the first thing you would do, as the world goes back to normal?

Fabio, “Fight!”

Sally, “What I want doesn’t involve any money at all. I want to remember to and continue to appreciate the small things. I just cant wait to see my friends and family and give them a big, big hug. There is one thing that does involve a bit of money though; I can’t wait to go out for a drink or two and a good old boogy with my friends. It’s needed!”

Megan, “I would love to go on a cheeky holiday with my boyfriend. Get out and explore somewhere new before training kicks off again properly and we are back to business as usual! Lockdown has given us mental rest but it’s different when you get away to a different place!”

Megan's boyfriend, Bik and the family pooch, Billy.

Chelsie, “Being able to go see my boyfriend after 8 months and going away on holiday with friends and family would be something I would love to do.”

Mikail, “I wouldn’t do much, just travel back to Turkey and get back to working towards my dream.”

Tina, “Without obligations and no financial limitations, I would travel. I would visit some people that I love and are living around the world and I would visit new beautiful places, learning about other cultures and eating different, delicious food.”

3. Has your sporting goal changed or stayed the same? What power and motivation do you get from having those goals?

Fabio, “My goal is the same one that I promised myself the day after Rio 2016, to become a true legend, that is to win the Olympics in two different weight classes. The more the days pass, the more I become familiar with this difficult goal.”

Sally, “Even though The Olympics has been postponed, the goal in terms of being the best I can be and doing the best I can each day is the same. The Goal of qualifying and being Olympic Champion is also still the same. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m still pushing myself in training and doing my best to keep myself fit, healthy and happy. So, when the time is right and we can get back to doing what we love, I’ll be as ready as I can be. Then we shall see! The support from Judo Scotland, my coach, support team, team mates, family and friends during this time has been amazing.”

Megan, “My goal has never changed. That has always stayed the same. It’s to qualify and medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It’s been a rollercoaster with all the adjustments over the past few months, in terms of timescale and the goal posts moving, but the goal has never, ever changed.”

Chelsie, “The goal for the last few years has been the Olympics and that is still the goal, but getting back to full physical fitness is a priority to get there. I have been training hard, but nothing compares to judo randori!”

Mikail, “Well at first I took some good rest to really give my body time to rehabilitate from years of continuous, tough schedules, but then the main aim stayed the same. It was on some days harder to motivate myself because there’s a bit of stress from this situation, but I have tried to stay busy and have a routine everyday.”

Tina, “My sporting goal didn’t change. I appreciate life more than I did before though. I had time to spend with my immediate family, rest my mind and body and to do different things, things I actually didn’t have enough time for before. I am grateful for all that has happened and for people who stayed with me. From all that, I gained new power and motivation for my goals.”

Tina enjoying the recharge a period of reflection and home time brings.

4. Who have you watched online through social media, YouTube, friends or IJF, who you are grateful for? Someone who has inspired you during these difficult months?

Fabio, “I love my friend Chamizo, because he has a similar style of life and fight! After China I needed someone and he was there, of course. I never forgot this day. He is there for me now and our contact is very important. He’s a world and Olympic medalist in wrestling and so we really understand each other.

Fabio and Chamizo training together in the lead up to the 2019 Tokyo world championships.

Sally, “Social media has definitely helped during this time. I think over all it’s been really positive. Keeping in touch with friends from all over the world that you normally see most weekends at competitions or on training camps has been great. The challenges at the beginning of lockdown were amazing. They really did give me a giggle and I had hours of fun with those, really motivational.”

Megan, “To be honest, no one. I have really taken this time to switch off mentally. I have been training with my brother, keeping in shape and working a lot for my parents. It’s been a real refresh! The judo world turned off for a little while! On a more personal level I’ve been really supported and inspired by my boyfriend. I have been very up and down and he has been calm, collected and supportive the whole way through. I really don’t know what I would have done without him to help me adjust to all the changes and adaptations that had to occur!”

Chelsie, “What’s inspired me is how supportive the judo community has been through these times. Nekoda, in particular, has been a massive part of my motivation, as a training partner and friend.”

Chelsie and Nekoda feeling the anticipation of some tough circuit training ahead.

Mikail, “I watched the Fighting Films platform a lot because I miss judo so much. Ole Bischof has some great advice for all professional judokas. I also watched a lot of Joe Dispenza and the series of Michael Jordan, who was really a phenomenal athlete and is an amazing human being.”

Mikael taking inspiration from the beautiful mountains of Slovenia, as much as from the people around him.

Tina, “I am inspired by people who risk their lives for saving others. I appreciate life and being healthy more than I did before. I am grateful for all people in my life because I have an opportunity to learn from them. In these difficult times I didn’t watch a lot of judo. I believe for judo there will still be time!”

It is clear that family and friends have been playing a huge part in keeping us all grounded, motivated and mentally strong. It is also clear that the lessons we have learned will be carried with us for a long time to come and those lessons will inspire, permeating everything. What hasn’t changed is the goal. The ever-present drive to achieve lifelong dreams may have hit a speed bump but in many ways it has been buoyed up, reaffirmed, cemented.

Tokyo, here we come!

See also