Shinji Hosokawa (JPN), World Champion and Olympic Champion in the 1980s, and now involved in the development of Japanese and world judo, explained: "As Japanese, we have an obligation to bring back the gold medal. When I was an athlete, my coach used to tell me that if I did not finish on the top of the podium, my mission was not fulfilled. I say the same thing to our athletes today. However, it is important for the universality of our sport that gold medals are shared among nations. This demonstrates the wealth of judo, which is much more than a sport."
After two days of competition and already an incredible collection of four world titles for Japan, the question remains vivid: would a success of the Japanese team not be total with the title of the men’s heavy weight category?
It is certain that to participate in the World Championships when you are from Japan or France, it does not necessarily have the same meaning as when you represent an African country where judo is in full development. Andrew, a 19-year-old who was born in Lusaka, Zambia, and who had to fight in life to be here, has great hopes for the next few days: "It would be fantastic for me, my family and friends to win a medal in Budapest. I am prepared for this and I am motivated because participating in the World Championships is incredible."
Estony Pridgeon, Secretary General of the African Judo Union, closely follows the course of the African competitors and particularly that of her protégés from Botswana. "For a country like Botswana, the main objective is to be present and for the first time we have three athletes participating. For us, every match is a final. On the first day, our athlete won his first fight before losing to the second round. It was the same on the second day of competition. Our goal is achieved and I am very happy for that. Every morning I tell my boys 'come on boys!’ and they did, they won a fight ... at the world championships."
For Jean-Luc Rougé, President of the French Judo Federation, the stated objective is clear: "When you are a high-level athlete, you can only have one goal, that of winning. Therefore, from the moment I have athletes in each category, our one and only goal is to win 14 gold medals."
Although the summits to be reached are not the same for all and the paths to reach them are as many and varied as there are engaged competitors, it is obvious: participating in the world championships is a culmination in a career. But participating also intends to give the best of oneself because ultimately everyone has to leave with the satisfaction of having climbed their Everest.