6 June 2024


European Judo Championships Veterans 2024


Vitalie GLIGOR started judo at the age of 9, after literally begging three different coaches at his primary school to let him train, as the sessions were officially only open to children aged 10 and over. He kept coming back until they let him into what seemed in the eyes of a 9 year old to be a “miraculous atmosphere of judogi”. At the age of 19, an injury forced him to end his competitive career and he left the mat and the dojo for what seemed to be permanent.

It took an unfortunate incident for him to be reunited with judo. Oleg Cretul, 1996 Olympian for Moldova, had a car accident (1997) which caused him to lose his sight. It was a moment that changed Gligor’s life as he became and has been a pillar of support for Cretul ever since.

If Oleg hadn’t had that car crash, I don’t think I would be in judo today. Judo called me back through him. Judo is my life. I often talk about it with Oleg. I don’t want to sound clichéd but judo deepens my heart. Everything I have in life I owe to judo.

Since then, Gligor has been the head coach of Moldova’s Paralympic judo team, which obviously takes up most of his time. So what brought him to Sarajevo?

I came to this competition mainly because I want to motivate my athletes. Sometimes when I ask them to push harder, to fight, to be strong and to overcome obstacles in life, they tell me ‘Ey, it’s easy to talk about it’, so today I wanted to show that I am not only a coach, but I can also be an athlete.

My preparation for this event was little to none to be honest. I am a full time coach and my team’s routine comes first, so actually the only reason I was able to come here at all is because we have a week off before the OTC in Porec. When I came here I also realised that this event is not easy, there are judoka who really prepare for this event and they are at a good level. I have done some running and such but my mat base training is not much at all. The last time I had a full technical session was about 20 years ago. This event also gave me a chance to see what level I am at as a competitor.

On the first day of the European Judo Championships Veterans Sarajevo 2024, Gligor did not only had six contest to battle through, ultimately claiming bronze, but was able to relieve some memories that had long been lodged in his mind and body.

I think that this championship is a new life for all judoka. I used to come here like a visitor but I never thought about the experience of this event when you compete. Today brought back feelings I had 31 years ago. You cannot get these emotions by watching the event, you have to participate to really experience it.

All in all, today was a great day I was with my family and with my kids. It was their first time to watch me competing. I have two kids and my little boy started to do judo so I wanted to show him what it means to do judo and to see what our judo family is like. Additionally, my family was also able to feel new emotions today. If I am honest I was afraid to lose becuase I did not want them to have sad feelings. Ultimately, by seeing daddy fighting I really hope they will be involved in judo or sport in general. Deep down, I hope my kids will become a judoka and be part of this family. All my life belongs to this sport.”

Gligor admitted that the experience he had today made him toy with the idea of returning to the veterans Europeans and perhaps even competing at the veterans worlds later this year.

Author: Szandra Szogedi