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Kaori Matsumoto: Winning is the only option

For almost one week 2012 Olympic Champion Kaori Matsumoto was in Europe to feel if she is as good the way she left 2014. She is staying for the training camp but a big team of Japanese women, but that team will be replaced by another great team of women who will fight in Düsseldorf, among them World Champion Ami Kondo. We spoke with the Olympic Champion who still seems to be untouchable for her rivals.



Was it an easy day at the office in Oberwart?

I came here to win, so it wasn’t easy but I came here for the gold medal.


Your concentration looks different than other judoka’s preparation. Do you agree?

Winning is the only option, so you have to concentrate, and I am really good at it. I close my mind for things that would jeopardise my victory.


You almost seem to have two personalities?

Yes it is different. I change my attitude, my face about five  matches before I have to fight. It depends on the schedule, but for the first bout I start focusing 5 matches in advance. Towards the finals the period gets shorter. I do register my friends on the tribune but I concentrate, but I do see them, and there are loads of friends.


You are now the number 11 of the World Ranking, but who is your toughest opponent?

Telma Monteiro, Automne Pavia, Rafaela Silva, they are the most dangerous.


You don’t mention Marti Malloy who beat you at the World Championships first round in Chelyabinsk, one of your few losses.

No, because I lost to her, but I will beat her next time. Losing is not an option so it’s not a problem. I beat Pavia three times, I beat Roper, but the most nasty opponent is Telma Monteiro. She is physically and mentally strong, similar to me. She is still dangerous, she is two years older. Telma trained in Japan with me, so we are really good friends.


So at least you have friends in your own category? In Austria you have a special one don’t you?

Aaaah Sabrina!!! Yes, I like her a lot. We’re big friends. Yes, I sent her a special message at her birthday, a video message, it was funny. She’s often in Japan to train.


In 2012 you  won the only Japanese gold medal in Judo at the Olympic Games in London. Did it make you famous in Japan?

Yes, it changed, people recognize me now. But it didn’t influence me a lot, I’m used to it. Before London I wasn’t really famous, but I have no problems with that. Not everyone can cope with that fame. Winning just one gold medal is not a big deal in Japan, so you must win a second one, because you are only a real judoka with one gold medal. It is simply not enough.


So Tadahiro Nomura, is he the biggest ever in your perception?

Of course Nomura-san is the best because he won three Olympic gold medals but I want to be the best, and I’m not done yet.


After the Olympic Games you suffered an injury but you came back well with gold medals at the Grand Prix of Düsseldorf, Budapest and Grand Slam of Tokyo. What are your goals now?

Obviously I want to win the World Championships in Astana. I want to take revenge and win the world title. But I don’t know my program yet. I am in Oberwart this week for the training camp, but then I go back to Japan. In fact I don’t know, it will be decided after the All Japanese Championships in April. So even the World Championships are unclear as we must qualify first. I have to win the Japanese Championships to qualify.


Is there any kind of talent behind you in Japan who has the potential to become that good U57kg, there seems to be a gap?

Well, are so many people behind me, also younger judoka. Anzu Yamamoto, Momo Tamaoki, Christa Deguchi.


What do you do in your private life, besides judo?

Cleaning up!! Hahaha. I live on my own so need to clean myself as well. But I love to go to the hot spring, a spa. In Japan they have at least separate spa’s, not the unisex spa as in Europe. Hahaha.


You are familiar for your great ne-waza skills. Are you aware of a judo blog about you and your techniques?  www.judocrazy.com

I will have a look, it’s funny to see these analysis. Yes, I see all those techniques it describes. My favorite is o-soto-gari.


What athletes do you admire yourself?

Not a real person, just an imaginary person, someone who is successful. Not even from Japan. Of course someone like Ayumi Tanimoto is a great person and double Olympic champion, but it’s the same answer, so not a real hero in my mind.


And after the life of judo, 2-3-4 small Matsumoto kids?

Hmmm let me count ….two, maybe three I hope…. Haha, but not yet.


Thank you and see you in Astana, right?

 Thank you too, we must see.


Photo credits by Klaus Müller www.KM-pics.de



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