29 March 2024



Swapping their double skull boats and oars for personalised judogi, the current Olympic Champions Simona Radis and Ancuta Bodnar, decided to give judo a try!

Not only did they become victors in the Tokyo Olympic Games, but Radis and Bodnar can also boast European and World titles in the double skull event, with both gold medals and Olympic World Best Time status, it was an exciting experience to be on the tatami and out of the water.

Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis, Women’s Double Sculls, Romania, gold, 2020 Olympic Games Regatta, Tokyo, Japan © Detlev Seyb

Hosted by the Denisa Deliu Judo Academy at World Class Otopeni Romania, the pair gave judo a try for the first time, but unlike fish out of water, the rowers picked up their roles quickly and enjoyed their experience. Speaking with Deliu she explained,

As a sport exchange experience and friendship (one of the core values of judo), I invited them to try judo at my club, they had courage and gladly accepted the invitation and we made it happen! I led the training with specific judo games, assisted by Sensei Roxana Cretu. We made two ‘boats’ on the tatami: one led by Ancuta (called “The Ninjas”), one led by Simona (called “The Samurai(s)”). The Samurai team won.

‘Boat’ Challenge! © Friends Studio

We gifted them judogi from Ippon Gear, personalised with backnumbers with their names. They were very happy, it was the first time they tried out judo! They learned how to bow, ushiro & yoko ukemi, kesa gatame and o soto gari. They were fast learners, I wonder how would they have been as judoka…

Radis relished in the opportunity, and being part of the winning team,

For me it was amazing what happened tonight and what I learned from the kids. It has nothing in common with rowing. It is a totally different sport.

Team mate Ancuta was equally pleased to be invited to the club and see how the children engaged with them on the tatami,

The kids are adorable, they have a fantastic energy, which they shared with us. It was the first time I wore judogi.

The Olympic Champions and role models also encouraged the children to practice sport, to have a healthy lifestyle, to never give up and fight for their dreams. They wished them success and hopefully to see them become big champions. Both the children and parents in the judo club were very excited about the event and offered the guests flowers, receiving autographs and were invited to swap sports and jump in to a boat on their next meeting.

Third Dan, Deliu, is a huge advocate of judo and the education is provides, highlighting that friendship is one of our core values, and building theses bonds across sports is just as important as within our own sporting community. Not only friendship, but empowerment and courage for accepting a new sporting challenge was a powerful example for the children. Qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the families of the academy will be fully behind the pair!

Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis, Women’s Double Sculls, Romania, 2023 World Rowing Championships, Belgrade, Serbia © Friends Studio

Author: Thea Cowen