Weight category: -57kg
Achievements: 2013 World Championships bronze, 2013 Baku Grand Slam gold, 2013 Rijeka Grand Prix gold
It feels like I've always done judo. As a child I was grappling with my siblings all the time. So our parents decided to put us into martial arts to fight by rules and hopefully to leave our energy on the tatami. Luckily, they chose judo. I was six years old when I started in a small club in the countryside. The technical education wasn't the best, but I had what was most important: I loved fighting and I always had the spirit of a beast.
I really started practicing judo on a semi-professional level when I graduated from school and joined the training group at the regional centre in Cologne.
I've always wanted to be the best at everything I do. So, eventually I wanted to join the national team. But what I really dreamed about was the Olympics. Ever since I watched the opening ceremony of Atlanta I was captivated. And when I received a postcard from my coach from the Olympics in 2000 telling me he believed I would one day be there it became my obsession. And even though I wasn't the number one at that time, or for quite a few years to come, I was convinced I belonged at the top, I ought to be part of the Olympic Family.
Judo is more than a sport:
Judo isn't just strengthening the body, judo strengthens the mind as well. Judo teaches moral values and builds character. What I especially like about judo is that nobody is excluded. No matter whether you're young or old, small or big, a fighter or a Kata master everybody has their place. Like in a family. All around the world, as a judoka, you will be welcome and amongst friends.
Winning bronze at the 2013 World Championships:
On the day I had a strange mix of confidence and anxiety. After my previous successes in Moscow, Miami and Baku I was very confident. It wasn't only because of winning but the manner I had fought. But when I dislocated my toe in the final training camp and couldn't finish my preparation as I wanted to I wasn't sure if my best weapon, the ashi-waza, would strike as usual. Also, I was anxious whether my endurance would be sufficient after two weeks without randori. So in every fight I did not just fight with my opponent I fought an even harder internal fight with my own doubts. Those feelings only changed right before the bronze medal match. There was no more anxiety, just the will of the beast I am on the tatami.
I've always enjoyed judo, but sure it feels even better when your hard work pays off. The key to my success is surely my will not to give up but to live my dreams no matter what. I wasn't in the junior national team and to reach that level in as an adult is way harder. Especially since youngsters are often first choice. Finally, at age of 24 I managed to convince the board to be selected for the national team.
Another crucial factor is definitively my decision to join the Bundeswehr and their sports branch in 2010. At that point I became able to focus on judo without having to worry about money whereas for all those years before I had to have one or two side jobs besides training and university. While that decision certainly contributed to my current success on the other hand it also constitutes a huge risk. I have been unable to finish my studies so I put a lot at stake for my dreams. Not the most rational decision I'd say.
Judo in Germany:
Like many other sports judo is only getting the interest of the public during the Olympic Games. Many children practice judo but the media coverage is low so most people aren't aware of our effort or our successes. But I hope that will change. At least with the establishment of the IJF's streaming site (www.ippon.tv) the interested community is able to follow us and watch every competition.
Judo's continued growth:
I think the decision to broaden the tour was a good one but one that has reached its limits. At least for now. Including far off regions is one thing but the number how many competitions your body is able to take in a year and whether the athletes even have the funding to attend does put limits to it.