Scutto, Parlati, Bellandi and Lombardo have a few things in common. Firstly, they are all Italian. Secondly, their names are known because their results and performances warrant a little focus. Thirdly, they have each been world champion in the juniors.

Veronica Toniolo is now part of this group, a member of a national federation which has made huge leaps forward in recent years, building a clean and robust conveyor belt which churns out champion after champion. Toniolo is already in direct qualification for the Paris Olympic Games but her junior years were not quite complete until day two of the 2023 Odivelas World Championships Juniors.

The -57 kg podium In Portugal.

Why did you choose to come back to the junior category with such an outstanding set of senior results already this year?

“It was important because even though I’m currently in a qualified position, this is my last chance to win this world title. I’m a last year junior and already I was world and European cadet champion and also this yeah I became junior European champion; I wanted to complete the set!

Becoming cadet world champion in 2019.

Today for me there was perhaps some more pressure because I’m the only one in the category with this good a position in the seniors. It was a good opportunity to gain more Olympic ranking points too and others in the group know that’s the case.

With the Japanese judoka ahead of me, on the other side of the draw, it gave me more strength. Last year I lost the semi-final to a Japanese athlete and so my objective was to win the title but mostly to beat the strongest ones, this was a real driver.

Honda (JPN) and Toniolo (ITA) fight their final.

During the preliminaries I didn’t watch Honda’s competition, I focused only on me but I finished very early and was into the final on my side with the other side still fighting so I went upstairs to watch her semi-final against the Brazilian. We saw that the Brazilian tactics were right so although she lost we knew it was a good strategy and we took the same type of plan as part of our preparation for the final. With Japan you don’t have to do classical judo, you must find your own way and sort of confuse and unbalance them with different ideas. It wasn’t so important to score but to stay ahead and keep my pace. I knew she would feel at risk, in trouble.”

The plan worked.

Why is is important for you to have your father always in your chair?

“We feel what we have to do. We are one, fighting together against each opponent. He always says the right things, knowing me so well. Mum too is always upstairs cheering for me. The camera always films me and my father but she is just as important. We have created a real team, the perfect team and I hope to be just at the beginning with them. I want us to be together this way at every competition in the future. Maybe they didn’t hear it in this way from me before but my goal is to give them a gift, one that we can share. My career is a gift to them both.”

Pointing to mama in the most special moment.

Veronica has now completed her junior career and can move ahead concentrating only on the seniors, with global cadet and junior titles earned. Toniolo was determined to not skip a single step on her way to the top level, respecting the process even if she and her family already have their foot on the accelerator.

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