5 November 2023


European Judo Championships Seniors Montpellier 2023


Matthias Casse comes, sees and conquers. The 26-year-old Belgian is not at the top of the world rankings in the 81 kg category for nothing. He has reached the final at each of the last four World Championships, won 1 gold and 3 silver medals, 4 Grand Slam and 2 Masters titles. He has also already collected four European Championship medals – including one gold medal. It happens the first time to Mattias to come away empty-handed from a European Championship. For someone like him, 5th place is a new experience and therefore difficult to take. Nevertheless, Super-Matthias took the time for an EJU interview.

24 hours have passed since the bronze medal fight, you’ve had a bit of time to reflect – how would you summarise your European Championship performance in Montpellier in retrospect?

Matthias Casse: “It still hurts a lot. I’ve always been on the podium at a European Championship so far, I’m used to coming home with medals. This situation – coming away empty-handed – is quite unusual for me. The quarter-final fight with Wachid Borchashvili lasted 11:25 minutes. I can’t yet say exactly why I lost. We’ll have a look at that in the next few days. I’ve had a new coach for a few weeks now, or rather my former coach, Mark van der Ham, back. It will certainly be a while before I have internalised his style of judo 100 per cent again.”

How do you deal with defeats?
Casse: “I definitely handle wins better and yes, I find it difficult to deal with defeats. But one thing is clear: never blame a defeat on factors that you can’t control yourself. I lost, so I have to think about what I can change to the better. If I were to say: I have lost because of the slippery mat, that doesn’t get me anywhere.”

You keep emphasizing that what you’re still missing as an athlete is an Olympic victory. You came third in Tokyo and won bronze. How are the preparations running for Paris?
Casse: “Olympic Games is by far the most important competition for a judoka. I was a training partner in Rio in 2016 and learnt a lot. I wanted gold in Tokyo and won bronze. Without my training partner in Japan, I wouldn’t have been on the podium after losing in the semi-finals. He calmed me down so much that I was able to really concentrate on the bronze medal match again. As for Paris, I’m looking forward to my family watching. France is judo-crazy, the atmosphere will be great for sure. In sporting terms, one thing is clear: I want to experience what it feels like to win gold at the Olympics. An Olympic victory can change lives. I want to experience that for myself, to savour it… That’s what I’m training for.”

When will you be competing again?
Casse: “I’ll be at the Grand Slam in Tokyo. Then the season will be over for me.”

Author: EJU Media