In Fiesch, at the far end of the Canton of Valais, Switzerland, more than 200 young judoka (Juniors and Cadets), coming from 30 countries, benefited from the expertise of several great champions led by the 6th dan and Olympic bronze medalist, Sergei Aschwanden (SUI).
Francis Favrod, President of the Sergei Judo Camp Association, which manages the organization of the camp, was very proud during the official presentation of the event to the officials and sponsors, who made it possible: “For many years we have wanted to raise a large international judo camp in Switzerland. We have been discussing it for more than 20 years. Thanks to the commitment of our champions, and foremost that of Sergei, this has now become a reality.
We also made it happen thanks to the help of all our sponsors and partners, and especially thanks to the strong support of the IFJ and its president, Marius Vizer.” Francis Favrod also explained that the idea of this Sergei Judo Camp sprouted a little more than a year ago, and that it was originally planned to accommodate at most five or six countries. “Our initial goals are largely exceeded. With 200 participants from 30 countries, as well as thirty coaches who made the trip to Fiesch, we can be proud of the work that has been done. What we wanted is for young judoka from around the world to gather together, to share their passion for judo, in a beautiful place like the Canton of Valais. We made it happen. Thanks to all those who have invested time, energy and money.” Managing such a group for a whole week, with people who have different languages and cultures, was a challenge that the organizing committee of the Sergei Judo Camp took up, creating a real command post, active night and day.
Snoussi Osama Mahmoud, representing Tunisia in Switzerland, twice African cadet champion and who will soon participate in the World Cadets Championships in Miami, made no mistake: “It’s great here. We have very good training sessions. Many great champions are passing on their knowledge and the atmosphere is fantastic. I have made new friends from many countries… I would not have imagined meeting so many new friends. And I discovered the mountains. I had never seen snow before. This is great, but it’s cold! “
Gregor Brod, coach of the Slovenian delegation, also had a smile on his face: “Accommodation conditions are perfect and the young and old generation mixture works perfectly. For my athletes is a good preparation for the upcoming events. It’s not as intense as a training camp for seniors. It is somehow slightly more relaxed, even if the level of work is high. But it is primarily oriented towards exchanges and technical approaches. I can only say ‘bravo’ to Sergei and his team, as well as to the IFJ for making this possible!”
The particularity of Sergei Judo Camp was to bring together young judoka, as well as coaches, from very different backgrounds. Twice a day, the 227 participants met on the tatami of the large sports center. What on the program? One hour of technical work with the champions and one hour randori, morning and afternoon. Between the two training sessions, people learn to know each other, exchange views, and discover the Swiss culture…
“The common language is judo,” explained the technical director of the event, Sergei Aschwanden, before adding, “By combining theory with coaches and practice on the mat with the young athletes, everyone is happy. Today it is a first edition of an event that I hope will develop further in the upcoming years. Hopefully in four or eight years, participants of this camp will be on the Olympic podiums. If I have a dream, this is it.” The bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 also explained that without the support of the International Federation, it would have been more complicated: “This support enabled us to make a qualitative and quantitative quantum leap.” Larisa Kiss, Executive Assistant of President Vizer, who represented him in Fiesch, recalled that more than 12 countries (two athletes and one coach) were invited and supported (airfare and participation) by the IJF.
During the official presentation that took place Thursday, July 25, in front of the camp participants, the officials and partners, Jacqueline De Quatro, Minister of Defense and Environment of the Canton de Vaux, herself a third dan judoka, emphasized the excellent atmosphere that prevailed throughout the week: “It’s great to have a camp of this level and of this quality in Switzerland This is great for athletes and coaches. I’m so happy to see how our champions were available for the young generations. Here, I do feel I am in my world. Judo, in both my professional and private life, and in my political environment today, was a guide for me. Hopefully it will be the same for all these young people. All week long, the spirit of judo has animated them.” Ms. De Quatro also emphasized the social aspect of judo that not all other activities have: “All social classes are represented in this camp, all backgrounds, all cultures, and everyone lives in harmony. This is the strength of our sport.”
The bronze medalist at the Sydney Games in 2000, present in Switzerland, the Portuguese Nuno Delgado, who has greatly invested himself in large-scale projects using judo as a tool for social development, could only reinforce this idea: “I am very happy that such a camp can exist today. When I was a competitor, we did not have this opportunity. Judo is a great platform to exchange and to share knowledge and life experiences. Bringing children from disadvantaged backgrounds to live the adventure of high-level competition is exhilarating. By coming here in Fiesch, I could once again see the bridges that exist between projects like the ones I carry out in my country and a program such as the Sergei Judo Camp.”
Ines Feldman, Vice President of the Swiss Judo Federation, also said how proud Swiss judo was to have such an event taking place on its territory: “We are a relatively small federation, with relatively few members compared to large national federations, but I’m happy to see that our champions are able to move mountains.” In Switzerland this has a special significance. Concluding the week, Sergei Aschwanden reminded once again that judo, much more than any other sport, has to be seen as a special language to help people to communicate: “Throughout the week, this is what we have recalled to all these young judok and I think that we have been pretty good at it.”