Another week passed by and with that the first Grand Prix is just a week away. Some athletes are in the green zone (direct qualification) and some are in the blue (continental quota). Cyprus’ junior European medallists, Sofia ASVESTA, is fighting to keep her spot in the latter group. It is not easy, yet, nothing can take her down, nor her team. They are keep going and history is, expectantly, about to be made by born and raised Limassol judoka.
Once you dedicate yourself to a sport to achieve the ultimate goal, there must be a level of love and passion towards it and there was no difference for Sofia, except the fact that her first love was not judo, rather gymnastics. That is where her Olympic dreams were formed. There are several unspoken, yet known facts about what goes on in gymnastics and the teaching methods used at numerous parts of the world. Sofia lived through it and despite some rather dusky experiences, she appreciates the hardships as it made her the strong, down to earth person she is today. Moving into judo was smooth sailing. Though she had to part ways from her first love at the age of 15, momentarily, Sofia turned towards the gentle way. Now, some might jump and say, “that is a bit late”, but with the foundation she arrived onto the tatami with, it was rather wealthy.
When I started judo, I see the coach was nice to me and spoke positively. I had so much fun in judo, I decided to continue.
With only two years into the game, she took cadet Commonwealth Championships bronze before claiming her first national title, a year later. The following years instantly landed her on the junior stage, where she created an extensive collections from several U21 European Cups. In 2020, 5 years after her first ukemi, Sofia delivered an equally ice-breaking and historical achievement winning bronze at the junior Europeans. During these years, the Cypriot judoka merited from the likes of Kaori Matsumoto, Ilias Iliadis, Georgii Zantaraia, Kayla Harrison, Automne Pavia and Yarden Gerbi. Today, her motivation comes purely from within. Despite judo being her second first love, jumping into the pyjama remains one of the best decision she ever made.
Judo is my life, I chose this kind of sport by myself, nobody enforced me to train, to struggle, to sweat. I love what I do.
Being in any qualifying spot is not a guaranteed ticket to the Olympic Games. When you are in a green zone you might just have a little more breathing space, but certainly not the case if you are grasping onto the continental quota. That can be taken away overnight; therefore, Sofia’s journey has added density to it. To top it all, she hasn’t got a great depth of training partners at home so it is an absolute must for her to be on the road as much as possible, mixing with the bests. She is on constant alert and in the midst of that, of recently, the 23-year-old Small States European Games 2023 gold medallist had an important lesson to learn: to look after herself.
A few months ago in Perth, Australia, during the trip I caught a very bad cold. Psychologically, I was ready to win for 100% but physically I was very weak and powerless. I blame myself for this loss and the fact that I did not take care of myself as I should have.
Turning towards Paris, the stakes are high as history is in the make. Should she keep her spot in the race, Sofia will be the first ever female judoka to represent Cyprus at the Olympic Games. The fact that the country has not had a participant for 20 years, makes it a sweeter story and even a bigger victory. Sofia, has a Russian nickname, Sonya which means “sleepyhead”. So, what are Sonya’s views ahead of Paris 2024?
All athletes’ dream is to at least participate in the Olympics. Since I did gymnastics, I had this dream. This road is like a staircase to a high level. Step by step. I follow it to archive my goal.
Mostly I try to concentrate on my training and after that I always think and dream about Olympics. But recently I realized that I think more often about it. I even ordered a necklace with Olympic rings to remind me not to give up when things get hard.
Ultimately, dreams do come true and so I always believed. For Paris, I just want to say everyone go ahead of your goal and good luck to all athletes.
Whilst Paris, Los Angeles and beyond is the target for now, as the time goes on, Sofia would like to have a family of her own.
If my kids follow my steps in judo I will be glad to share with them my knowledge and experience. Until then I want to do my best to increase the level of judo in Cyprus and to give all my knowledge to young judo athletes.
Sofia’s journey in judo is far from over. With each new competition, she continues to push herself to new heights, constantly striving for excellence. Her drive, skill, and unwavering dedication make her a force to be pondered with in the world of judo, and her presence in the sport will undoubtedly continue to inspire and captivate many for years to come. Thought, when a break needed, you likely to find her at the movies, with a book, or with friends and family.
FAN FACT SHEET
|Study / Qualifications
|BSc Physical Education
|Biggest lesson learned so far
|All impossible is possible
|Ena Karavi – Vassilis Papakonstantinou
|The Little Prince
|Day of the week
|Friday, the last training after a hard week.
|Top 5 bucket list
|To participate at the Olympics
Travel the World
To drive a car
Go on Safari
Start a Family
Author: Szandra Szogedi