At 23 years old Yuri Alvear stretched her arm high into the air and said, ‘me!’ She won the first of 3 senior world titles in Rotterdam in 2009 and took the 2013 and 2014 titles too. There aren’t many judoka in the history of the sport to have taken 3 world titles but Yuri did and Yuri, unstoppable for more than a decade, added 3 further world medals, 2 Olympic medals and 5 continental titles. This record, surely, belongs to a Japanese or French judoka, perhaps a Brazilian? No, Yuri is Colombian!
Yuri on her way tov gold at the 2013 World Championships.

“I started judo, at 14 years old, in Jamundi near Cali in Colombia. I chose judo because in my childhood my parents didn’t have money and I wanted to go to university later on. I was quite old to be just starting judo but I was thinking that as I was good at all sports maybe I could find a way to get to university through sport. I tried athletics, water polo, volleyball, dance, swimming and more. My city was small and didn’t have a lot of support available for athletes but I continued. My first judo coach was a very good person and he helped me to access training and competition even though we didn’t have money. He told me that if I was national senior champion then the government could pay for my university education. His name is Ruperto Guauña and now he is the Colombian National Cadet Coach."

Coach Ruperto Guauña with Yuri in Zagreb.

"When I won my first gold medal, at a small regional event, I thought then that I wanted to be the best judoka in the world. I was 15 at that time. At my very first competition all my teammates won golds but I won silver and I felt very bad, but that changed. I worked hard to win medals like them.”

In 2021 we announced Yuri’s retirement from international competition:

Now there is further news, a step into a whole new arena, that of the IJF Sport Commission. In Zagreb Yuri has joined the team, working first at the Zagreb Grand Prix and then at the World Judo Championships Cadets.

Happy to be on the World Judo Tour again.

“I am happy; this is great opportunity for me. When I was an athlete it was very different. I thought only about me, I thought like an individual. Now it’s so different and I have to think about all things. I must pay attention to all aspects of the events to ensure the conditions are good for these current athletes. Before, I didn’t understand when a referee told me maybe to be quiet at the weigh-in, for example, but now I’m working there and I understand why all these small details are important for fairness and for correctness. To know all these rules is important for everyone. I like judo and I really like the co-operation that our sport encourages. The IJF does a huge amount of work and I am happy to be back here, in a new capacity.

I want to thank Mr Vizer and Mr Barta because when I finished my athlete career I really thought ‘what do I do now?’ but here I am, back inside the family. I am working with really good people and learning so much. In this moment I feel motivated to learn all languages, all rules and all the ways I can give my best to help the team. It is very important to continue our education, for coaches and judoka. Education is key at all levels and only now I’m really understanding that.

With the Colombian team at the 2023 #CadetWorlds

I learned many things through my career and I continue to improve myself now and so I want to say to my young Colombian athletes that although they still need more facilities and other things, their conditions are so much improved from when I was their age. Travel is not so bad for them and now and they have training partners at home. With these opportunities they now have to choose to have the right attitude. When I came through I didn’t have a partner for warm ups, for example, but no matter my circumstances, I always trained at 100%.

In 2009 at the Worlds, all day I thought about entering the final. I didn’t think about money or lack of partners. It was necessary to continue forward towards my goal, always. Sometimes I think young judoka need to have more of this attitude. They have better and better conditions and the gaps between nations are closing slowly. Judo is a very strong sport, a very hard sport and so focus and attitude are really important. That day, in Rotterdam I was against Edith Bosch (NED) on her home ground, in the first round. She was such a strong judoka but I beat her in her country. Maybe people underestimated my capability back then because of my conditions and my flag but I always had that forward thinking, a very positive and determined attitude.

The 2012 Olympic podium, with Edith Bosch (NED).

After the 2009 worlds, a Japanese coach came to Colombia and he changed the way I was training. We knew that to win once is often possible but to win again requires very intelligent practice and thinking. Noriyuki Hayakawa was the coach and he stayed with me for 11 years. Now really he is my family. He was a big part of me being able to sustain such a focussed attitude for all that time.”

Coach Noriyuki Hayakawa

Yuri Alvear met her goal to go to university with a full sport scholarship to the Escuela Nacional del Deporte in Cali. She completed her degree just as she planned when she was a teenager. Attitude counts for a lot!

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