6 August 2023


Hungary Masters 2023


Heavyweight Martti PUUMALAINEN (+100), 26, made Finnish judo history this Sunday in Budapest. The blond giant celebrated the first (male) Finnish success on the IJF World Tour and then immediately at the Masters. This means that he can start to prepare for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024.

How proud are you of this first Finnish IJF World Tour victory in the men’s event?
“Very proud! I like Budapest, I was seventh in the World Championships here two years ago and fifth in the Grand Slam last year. I already had a hunch that it could be enough for my first medal today. But it came as a surprise to me that I win. Yesterday I said to my room-mate Valtteri (OLIN): You’ll see, this time I won’t just win one or two rounds. This time I’ll get further… And it worked.”

Winning the second most important tournament of the year puts you in the spotlight of the competition – especially one year before the Olympic Games in Paris. When you hear that, what thoughts go through your mind?
“To be honest, I don’t want to think or talk too much about Paris yet. I will definitely keep working hard. But winning the Masters catapults me into a new category. Personally, I think the Masters is even tougher than the World Championships or the Olympics. You don’t have so many top athletes, sometimes even 3 per nation, anywhere else. There are no easy opponents! Today only Teddy Riner was missing, otherwise all the top shots were there.”

How does one actually get into judo in Finland, not exactly a judo nation?
“My father’s cousin was a judoka, he advised my father to send my older brother Juha and me to judo to get a feeling for the body, for falling etc. I was six years old then. I liked it and so I stayed.”

When did you decide for yourself that you wanted to try judo professionally?
“I think I was 16, meaning 10 years ago, just came back from the European Olympic Youth Festival in Utrecht. That’s when I thought I want to try to become a competitive athlete.”

How much will the Finnish people take notice of your victory?
“I think it will make big headlines. We haven’t been very successful in sports lately. Something like this stands out immediately! Even with my last top results, many people were interested in judo and in me.”


Author: EJU Media