When we enrol our children in their first judo class, we don't have the slightest idea if one day they will become a champion and that is probably not the most important thing because what interests us above all, as parents, is the educational dimension of judo, the values.
Hidayat Heydarov (AZE), European champion and world medallist

It nonetheless remains true that the big names in sport have a notable attractive power and they even remotely play the part of role model for the younger generations. You should know that the athletes who participate in World Judo Tour competitions only represent an infinitesimal section of all judoka around the world. On the other hand, their visibility and their exploits are there to attest to anything being possible.

They all started judo, often quite young. Little by little, they climbed the ladder, to one day reach the holy grail, the world or Olympic title for the most fortunate, numerous medals on the circuit for the others. Our young people can therefore easily identify with them, watch them and copy them, before building their own judo, one that will be perfectly suited to their abilities and desires.

Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA), 6 times world champion and double Olympic champion

Our children therefore need role models and who better, when practising judo, than those they can see on TV or on the internet and who they can even have the chance to see live, during of one of many World Judo Tour events. To be convinced of this, you only need to see the number of young judoka under 15 who flock to the stadia. They represent a significant percentage of the spectators. Accompanied by their parents and their judo teachers, they can enjoy the show and vibrate to the rhythm of the ippon.

The youngest need to dream, to identify, to be able to believe in a bright future. Our champions are there for that and they do it well. The International Judo Federation organises activities involving children regularly. Whether during autograph signing sessions, events such as the recent Paris Grand Slam 2024 mixed team tournament or photo sessions, champions and children have the opportunity to interact directly. The least we can say is that the connection is made instantly.

Ruben Houkes (NED), world champion and an Olympic medallist

Ruben Houkes was world champion and an Olympic medallist. Today he is the head of the IJF Children’s Commission. According to him, "Champions are important for children. They are their super heroes. Next to Spiderman, Robin Hood or Moana, they want to be Teddy or Christa. They see them lift, block and throw. It's magical, especially when they see them in real life, on the Tour, in their club, at their school. It inspires, creates dreams. Champions are important for children because what they say resonates. Their actions matter to them. They are role models. They have the opportunity to set examples and lead the way."

Barbara Timo (POR), world medallist and grand slam winner

It is often said that athletes, during their career, must be a little selfish but this is not the case, not in judo at least. While athletes need to focus on their training, diet, lifestyle, etc., they still remain accessible. To be convinced of this, you just need to see to what extent they are always there when it comes to meeting the youngest. Sometimes we no longer know who is having the most fun because, ultimately, our champions are just big kids!

Judo is super fun, especially when you start practising at a young age. You can make lots of friends and you have the opportunity to meet your superheroes, as Ruben Houkes pointed out and where in real life can you meet your superheroes? In Judo!

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