Takanori NAGASE (JPN/-81) had to travel around 11,000 kilometres to get to the Olympic Training Camp in Mittersill, Austria. It took him a day to get there. But the 30-year-old is leaving no stone unturned in his dream of a second Olympic gold medal. After Tuesday morning’s training session, the Olympic champion took time for an EJU interview.
You’re the only Japanese to make the trip to Europe. Why did you choose Mittersill?
Takanori Nagase: “I have an incredibly large selection of randori partners here, in the category up to 81 kg, but also in the neighbouring weight classes. The aim is to familiarise myself with the European fighting style in the best possible way. Mittersill is perfect for this. It’s fun here, despite the effort. The heavier the opponents and the more seriously they take the randori sessions, the better. Paris is getting closer. I want to win my second gold medal, that’s no secret. And that includes a few trips to Europe. My biggest opponents are the Europeans.”
Do you have any favourite training partners?
Nagase: “It’s the variety. Fast, lighter opponents, then stronger, heavier ones. And of course I also look for opponents from the -81 category. If it’s up to me, I’ll do the odd randori session with Matthias CASSE (BEL).”
You already have one gold medal – how difficult will the second Olympic gold mission be?
Nagase: “Personally, I think it will be much harder than 2021. I’m older and the pressure of expectation at home in Japan is bigger. They expect another gold medal. But I’m confident that I can do it. So far everything is going according to plan, I would say. But there are many who have what it takes to win gold, I’m aware of that.”
The mixed team competition in Paris 2024 will generate particular interest. As hosts, you lost the final to France 1-4 in Tokyo. Will you be able to get revenge in the French capital of all places?
Nagase: “We lost in Tokyo. I don’t think that will happen again in Paris. We are the favourites and we definitely want gold. But the same applies here: not only France, but also some other nations have extremely strong teams. If you ask me, we’ll win this time.”
When will we see you at a competition in Europe, at the beginning of February at the Grand Slam in Paris?
Nagase: “We haven’t finalised that yet. But I think I’ll be back at least once more… before the Olympic Games.”
Author: EJU Media