We can think of the international scene as a ladder, a tall ladder with wide but always within reach.
At the bottom, we have trainees. We can see hope and emotion and their potential for excellence. Some are accomplished and have a strong plan, but most have an almost brilliant set of techniques applied at almost the right moment. Compared to the taller rungs, the ne-waza lacks clarity. And iridescent belts.
At the European Cadet Cup in Strasbourg there are top players from yesterday, now in the coaching role, such as Otome Napavia (FRA), Olympic bronze medalist. She worked her way up from the National Cadet Championship, won 8 Junior European Cup medals, and made her way to the senior world stage.
Automne Pavia (FRA) to coach Euro 2022 in Strasbourg
Now a coach, Pavia is coaching the early careers of those who follow her and do everything they can to reach the same heights as her. They want to compete in the European and World Cadet Championships. They want to prove themselves. This layer doesn’t have the biggest impact in the long run, but it’s part of the infrastructure that underpins the rest.
Students can see many top judo. Azerbaijan’s world medalist Shikhalizada is also in Strasbourg, along with Portugal’s Ramos. They have a lot to offer -18 people who have a comprehensive understanding of the environment they will experience in the next few years.
Shikhalizada with some Azerbaijani national cadets in Strasbourg
Above the cadets we can find the teens (-21) playing in Poznan, Poland this weekend. For them, it was the beginning of making their name a long-term brand. They will undergo some research, and they will rediscover those who have succeeded through national programs, who they fought as children, who are both rivals and friends. This is the pattern that all judo athletes follow in their competitive years.
In Poznan, judokas are looking for options at continental and world-class events, where they may be able to secure funding or secure a place on the senior national team for the first time. Maybe they can win a medal. These medals are important, they earn a little respect, and they’re a great addition to the early sections of your resume.
With -21 Judo, there is a style, a more balanced response to winning and losing. Build a relationship with coaches and coaches and understand the consequences of their actions. They’ve played in many, many games and their experience is very important. They have a game plan, they have a fueling process, and they usually mean it.
On this ladder, above the juniors, is the seniors. This weekend they will take part in the Senior European Cup in Dubrovnik, Croatia. No multi-color belt system, almost all black. Now, they are vying for a spot on the national team, looking for selections and developments that will take them to the World Judo Tour. It seems like they’re almost there, but progress isn’t guaranteed even at this level.
These seniors, they can look down to see how much they have climbed, or they can look up and see that there are still many steps to climb. London 2012 GB team coach Luke Preston, coach of Olympic medalist Karina Bryant, is still absent from the European Cup tour because it has value, “The European Cup is a great event, it is A real stepping stone to the higher leagues. Judo. Like the Continental Open, when a player wins a medal in these events, it shows that they have the potential to move up to World Tour level and be successful.”
Nina Solley (GBR), one of Luke Preston’s senior judokas, is on her way to the final in Dubrovnik
So this weekend, in France, Poland and Croatia, there is a lot of development going on. The students are raising their heads, and so are the juniors. But make no mistake, seniors too, because the next level for them is the tour, the higher level is the world championship level, the higher level is the Olympics. Each rung is a giant step and comes with the necessary knowledge and experience to meet the richness required for an elite judo career. This ladder is the route to the top of the world, especially the Strasbourg cadets, who will reach the top for the first time.
Some cadets in Azerbaijan, future stars, if they can keep climbing the ladder