23 January 2024



The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will take place between 28 August to 8 September. There will be 14 gold medals awarded throughout and IBSA Judo world ranking leader of the J1 -73kg category, Alexandru BOLOGA (ROU) is determined to take one of those home. The Romanian judoka has been world number one since 2019. 

This is an incredible feeling. I am world number one since 2019 and looking back I see that all my hard work and sacrifices are paying off. I am grateful for everything that’s happened to me, everything I have had the opportunity to experience and the people I have met. Being number one in the world is a pride, but also a responsibility.

Up until the last mega event, there were three categories to classify in to compete at any IBSA judo event, B1 (blind), B2 (visual impaired) and B3 (visual impaired). However, at the time, they all competed against each other. After Tokyo 2020, two categories were created, J1 (blind) and J2 (visual impaired), however, they are no longer mixed to compete against one another. Alex, short for Alexandru, has been a B1 and now consequently, competes amongst J1 since the recent changes. How did you take to the new settings? 

During my career, I have fought against athletes who, more or less, can see. I think that the division between totally blind athletes and partially sighted athletes is a good idea. It is more fair.

Alex’s journey, not known at the time, began in his mother’s womb due to microbes passing to the fetus. Changes in the maternal gut microbiome is one of the mechanisms that occurs in various pregnancy ailments, including fetal growth restriction and premature birth. What happened in your case?

I wasn’t born blind; I lost my sight when I was 6. My mother got a microbe during pregnancy, and this affected my eyesight. The doctors discovered I had that microbe when it was too late.

To quote Christopher Reeve: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – what of you and your family’s strength at this moment?

It was hard for my family to accept that I will never be able to see again, but I got over it easily. When you are a child, in your innocence, you accept various situations more easily. To me, it was not a tragedy. I continued to live my life in the most beautiful way possible. I went to Cluj-Napoca, 120 km away from home, to study at a special school. There I started practicing my first sport, swimming, until I discovered judo. After finishing high school, I went to university. I was the only blind person in the class and I did not feel inferior. Everyone treated me with respect, and I did whatever a normal student would do. I studied and graduated the university with good results, doing judo at the same time. All in all, I try to live normally and to take the good parts of my disability.

Alex, as mentioned, used to swim, with no thoughts of the Paralympics prior to the age of 16, when a life changing event occurred. The President of the Romanian Paralympic Committee, Salvia Marion Wood-Lamont launched a programme aiming to find young talents to prepare them to complete in judo. 

I was a high school student at the Special School for the Visually Impaired in Cluj-Napoca when I was spotted by Csokasi Eniko and Gianina Andreica, the two coaches sent to make the selection. At that time, three students were selected, but the rest dropped out along the way. 

Until then, I didn’t know what judo means, but when I stepped on the tatami for the first time, I felt something special, I felt I had found my place. My happy place.

Since, Judo gave me a direction in life. It helped me to become independent and to write my own story. Also, this sport gave me the opportunity to meet Tomi, my coach, who is very important in my life. We have been through so many battles together and I am grateful for everything. Without him, my life wouldn’t be the same.

Sensei Tomi (Tamas Ghergely), care to comment?

Well, as I took over being Alex’s coach from Csókási Eniko and Andreica Gianina (they are also still in our technical staff), I also did not have any experience working with blind and visually impaired athletes, it was a challenge for me. At that time, I didn’t really want to be a coach, but this project was something that I really wanted to do, being in special conditions. I gained experience going in training camps and competitions, meeting other experienced coaches around the world . Since then, I love working with them, especially with Alex, he is also an example for us, doing all this work with devotion and ambition. Personally I love working with him, he is an important part of my life, not only in the dojo. He is kind of lifetime relationship for us.

Alex’s first judo event was The Northern Cup in Baia Mare (Romania), 2012. He was a cadet back then. Four years later, he achieved the target of many athletes and became a Paralympic medallist at the Rio 2016 summer games in the -60kg category.

When I won the bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, it was at that moment when I told to myself: I can! Impossible is nothing. 

The bronze feast was re-created at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Whilst Alex declares facing some amazing athletes over the years, he shared that the two most challenging opponents on the road to glory [in Paris] are likely to be Sherzod NAMOZOV (UZB) and Vugar SHIRINLI (AZE). As stated earlier: Impossible is nothing. So, gold in Paris? 

It would probably be one of the happiest day of my life, because I would fulfil my biggest dream in sport.

The 28-year-old judoka has valuable dreams off the mat too: “just to be healthy.”

Whilst further down the line he wishes to become a judo coach himself. The Romanian judoka has a little brother too, who as he explained, is not into any sports but remains one of his biggest supporters on this journey, alongside the rest of the family. This resilient and incredible sportsman is a big believer that everyone can learn something from each other. Alex loves travelling, hiking, going to concerts or skating. Finally, despite the gold medal, any other motivations?

My biggest motivation is the opportunity to write a beautiful story.


Weight category -73kg J1 
Favourite techniqueSeoi nage
Study / Qualifications Special Psychopedagogy and Massage
Biggest lesson learned so farImpossible is nothing. 
MottoFall seven times, stand up eight!
Animal Dog
SongWe are the Champions – Queen
BookThe Power of Positive Thinking – Norman Vincent Peale
MovieGoing Blind
Day of the week (why?)Sunday. It’s relaxing day.
Trait Ambition
Top 5 bucket list To enjoy every day
To marry and to have kids
To become a Paralympic Champion
To become a judo coach 
To travel around the world 

Author: Szandra Szogedi