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Tadahiro Nomura: mind, skill, body PART 1


Tadahiro Nomura (-60kg), legend of Judoka who had three Olympic gold medals, Atlanta, Sydney, and Athens. He doesn’t give up his Judo career, yet even he had his 40th birthday last December. How he who used to crying beaten by girls in his boyhood could achieve three time Olympic Gold medal? After his achievement, how come he can still keep fighting on tatami? We asked to let him talk honestly and directly what he has in his mind…




--- We know that you have started Judo since 3 years old from Dojo your grandfather built, but did you have any opportunity to feel Judo is really fun for you?


Yes, my first Dojo was next to my house and I was just playing around with my friends on tatami. My father did not force me anything. Little by little I started learning a few technique, especially Seoinage and I realized feeling Judo is fun.


--- You hate to lose all stuff since child?


I think so. I have one year older brother, and he had bigger body and much stronger in Judo. I was not good my physical talent and could not beat him at all. This could be my complex so I hated to lose all stuff not only in Judo.


--- So was your brother was a “big wall” for you?


Not like that much, but I really hated him when I was a boy. For him I’m sure I was not a good younger brother. We always fight each other.  He even broke my teeth, hahaha.


--- OMG!


Our relationship has been changed since I became junior high school student and entered Tenri Judo team. Even we were still fighting at home, but at school I was seeing him as “Nomura senpai”. In high school we were sleeping dormitory, and no opportunity to go home. There our relationship also changed little by little. Our head coach in Tenri high school Judo team was my father. So some colleagues were angry on me if they were scolded by my father. Later I noticed that my brother was protecting me from such hate or jealously. At school, my brother was Nomura senpai, and my father was Nomura sensei. It was a quite strange environment for me.


--- How dose it actually feel that your coach was a real father?


In my memory, I don’t remember anything that I learned Judo from him. He did not either scold or praise me. When my brother entered Tenri high school Judo team, my father quit head coach, and became deputy general manager. He was the person who thinks it is not fair to teach his real son among other Judo boys and might give wrong impression to all team mates. I guess I had a wish that my father could pay more attention to myself but it was much less pressure from my father and brother. I really could enjoy the Judo how I liked. Probably it was the biggest reason why I didn’t quit Judo.




--- You achieved first Gold medal in Atlanta Olympic when you were last year of university.


First Olympic was actually given like a present. I didn’t have enough result and career in my past; I could say that I was lucky. Of course I had a huge pressure and stress but I think I didn’t have such a special extra stress as the first biggest event, Olympic. People around me didn’t know about me, and I was a really young and new in such a big event. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I really did my best. It was like a power of youth to run up to the final and stand on the podium.


--- Did you actually enjoy?


No way. If I could achieve the best result based on what I have been working on for it, of course I feel so much happiness. But to be honest, none of Judoka knows the result even he has a strong confidence. I face to the pressure, fear and loneliness. I can not “enjoy” each fight on tatami. It is a serious battle.


--- Did that kind of feeling become even stronger in Sydney Olympic?


Yes, it did. I was fighting on tatami as the Atlanta gold medalist for another 4 years. It was a huge pressure however somehow I had much stronger confidence than before Atlanta. I tried Sydney like “come to beat me up if you can!”


--- For top athletes like you, is 4 years for the Olympic too long or short?


If I look back after everything is done, it could be short. However there was always the possibility to lose all careers from one injury or new young start show up to beat me.. It is never ordinary 4 years. When I was in Sydney, I was 25 years old and the best condition as physically and mentally as the Judo athlete without such a big injury. I was thinking to retire Judo after in Sydney.


--- However you achieved V2 and tried to 3rd medal…


It was bloody hard. If I can describe my condition as “心技体” (mind, skill, body), Atlanta was “body”, Sydney was “skill” and Athens was “mind”. In that time it was common sense in Judo that it is impossible to achieve Gold medal twice in light weight category. Three times Gold medal was out of mind. There was nobody around me who was still competing over 30 years old. However little by little I started to feel that I want to challenge again.. It took 2 years to finally decide that I would continue Judo as the competitor.




--- After Sydney, you quit Judo and went to study abroad to USA for a while, didn’t you?


About 1 year after Sydney, media and people started asking me intensively what I will do what my plan will be. And I felt so gloomy and decided to go USA where Judo was not so popular at that time to relax myself. It was totally different life there.


--- How did you spend time there in USA?


I was not doing anything for a while, but I started to stop by one small Dojo once a week or two. While I was playing Judo with kids there without any stress or pressure, I started realize that what I want is Judo..


--- How actually did you change in yourself then?


I started realize that I was just afraid of another challenge or fail. It must be hard way but it can be something very important for me to challenge one more time. I didn’t want to regret or complain that I could try Athens, etc. Coming back to Judo as the athlete is the only way for me to get myself serious and excited. But it was so miserable and much harder than I expected. I could not win at all. I was losing every single match in Japan. I totally forgot how I used to play Judo..


--- Do you think 2 years of blank was a huge damage for your athlete career?


Yes I do think so. People around me were so happy to welcome me back. However I lose once, twice, and lose every match, people stop smiling and obviously expressing to me “disappointment”. Even they told me “it was the best choice to retire Judo right after Sydney”. That word made me weaker and stubbornness. I was only care that I can’t show them ugly Judo. My Judo got even worse from that.






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