QUANTITY AND QUALITY IN DÜSSELDORF FOR THE 2015 SEASON KICKOFF
The IJF President, Mr. Marius Vizer, who was present in Düsseldorf for this third day of competition declared: “We had a really good kickoff the 2015 season here in Germany. In terms of number of participants and number of countries, this Grand Prix is a success. But it is also the case from a technical perspective. It shows the quality of the athletes, who are ready to compete throughout the season the get qualified for the Games next year. The overall quality was very good. I am also pleased to see that we had a very enthusiastic public throughout the weekend. I could follow the first two days from abroad and the event really looked good on TV. To have full stadiums is important for our sport. I wish to the judo family to have a fantastic year were quality will be the key word at all level.
A MINUTE OF SILENCE IN THE MEMORY OF WILLEM RUSKA
A week ago the judo family lost one of its greatest legends as Willem Ruska of the Netherlands passed away aged 74. The 1972 double Olympic gold medallist was inducted into the IJF Hall of Fame in 2013. The public, officials and athletes were kindly asked to please observe a minute’s silence in the memory of Willem Ruska.
Just before the final block, Mr. Vladimir Barta, the IJF Head Sports Director, presented an IJF plaque to Ursola Braun, who has been a life long photographer for the German Judo Federation and a national referee for many years. At the end of the final block. Mr. Barta also presented an IJF Placket to Heide WOLLERT (GER), bronze medallist at the 2009 World Championships in Rotterdam, who put an end to her sports career.
MIRYAM ROPER, BACK TO HER FAMILY ROOTS IN PANAMA
During the last day of competition, the IJF media department met Miryam Roper (GER). The world number three and 2013 world bronze medallist was supposed to compete in Düsseldorf but because she was sick had to withdraw a few days prior to the event. Nevertheless, she spent the whole weekend in Düsseldorf to meet her fans and the media. “Three days without competing, it is really difficult. I really wanted to be on the tatami, but that was not possible. Today, I have the impression to be more tired than if I had fought“, explained the champion.
It was also the occasion for her to explain more about her last trip to Panama. “My father is from Panama, but I was there only once and it was 16 years ago, even though I have a lot of family there.“ Miryam Roper was in her father’s home country from December 15 to 20, 2014. “The country has changed a lot since the last time I was there. It has become more modern. In one part of Panama City, I even had the impression to be in Dubai. The Panama channel helps a lot with the economy. But still the infrastructure is fragile“, says Miryam Roper.
But she was not only there to visit her family. She was also invited by a friend, Omar, to visit his club and train with children. “The most complicated for me was the timing (laughs). I am German and I like to be on time. But it was so great to share my experience with the children. The training conditions are complicated. There is a lack of equipment but people are very motivated and they were keen to meet me and I was to meet them.“
Miryam Roper participated in several judo sessions with participants from 3 to 20 years old and even her little cousin, who she never met before did her first judo lesson: “She is only 12 years old. The last time I came here, she wasn’t born. She is really strong and motivated and after two hours she was able to do some nice o-soto-gari and o-goshi. We were both very proud.“ She was also invited by the Federation President, Mrs. Estela Riley: “she really wants to develop judo and the potential exists. They just need to get a little organized and supported. I have visited the high level center. It was interesting for me to see the training condition, since not everybody has the chance to train in the same facilities as we do in Europe. But still they have young competitors who have a good potential.“
After having visited the training center where judo shares a venue with boxing and wrestling, Miryam Roper went to her friend’s judo club which is located in a disadvantaged area. “Children are not paying to practice judo and Omar’s project has been existing for several years. All the young judoka were really interested in knowing more about me and about top level judo.“
Although the Olympic qualification is in full swing, the German star is already thinking about going back to Panama again to help the development of judo: “I know that they want to organize something bigger the next time I go there. In 2015, I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to travel, since I have to get concentrated on my Olympic qualification. But this trip only focused on Panama City, and it would be interesting to extend that to the whole country.“ While in Panama, because Miryam Roper is a ‘professional’ athlete and because she loves judo, she also took the opportunity to answer media interviews in order to promote the sport around the country.