IJF: You arrived at the 2017 World Championships as a rank outsider having never won an IJF event. Did you honestly think you could win the Worlds? Why? AW: 2016 wasn’t a good year for me. I had the Dengue fever from the Grand Prix trip to Cuba and after that recovery I broke my rib. That meant the end of my Rio 2016 Olympic Dream. After that I told my family: ok, bad things can happen, but next year I will win the World Championships. Giving up is not an option. IJF: You had six contests. Tell us about the day and the challenges as you progressed and defeated world medallists and the Olympic champion. AW: To be honest, I was like in an tunnel: After defeating (Khasan) Khalmurzaev in the semi-final, I realised for the first time how far I came. The German crowd screamed: ‘Finale ohhho‘. I will never forget this moment. The moment I won the final still feels surreal.
IJF: Describe the feeling of being crowned world champion. AW: In January 2017, Takanori Nagase visited us in Germany. He was the reigning world champion and I just had in my mind: wow, he is allowed to wear the red back number. I can’t believe how it’s possible to become a world champion. And in the same year I made the impossible possible.
IJF: How has this victory changed your career and your life? AW: My life became more stressful :D but in a good way. Because of the fact that in Germany judo isn’t that popular, it’s a good feeling to bring judo into the German media. It’s more easy and I’m happy to tell the people how fantastic judo is.
IJF: We haven’t seen you in action since then. Where have you been and will you be in Baku to defend your title? AW: I was injured for a long time and after recovery I had a trainings camp in Japan. Of course I will be in Baku and my dream is to make the impossible possible again.
OTHER EXPRESS INTERVIEWS: • Tonaki Funa (JPN) • Shishime Ai (JPN) • Wolf Aaron (JPN) • Abe Hifumi (JPN) • Teddy Riner (FRA) • Takato Naohisa (JPN) • Mayra Aguiar (BRA) • Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) • Dorjsuren Sumiya (MGL) • Asahina Sarah (JPN) • Nemanja Majdov (SRB) • Marius Vizer (IJF President)