The aim of the OTC is to support the needs of athletes to reach their Olympic goals, and in the case of small nations, there is extra support from the European Judo Union. This initiative has assisted in changing the lives of athletes including Majlinda KELMENDI who became Olympic Champion for Kosovo.
In Mittersill this week, there is a small team from North Macedonia, and included within that team is father-daughter duo, Borce Nedanovski and Lilijana Nedanovska as well as Edi Sherifovski. At eight and five years old respectively, the pair started judo, both very energetic children, their parents sought an outlet which happened to be judo. Borce already had in mind what to do as he had practiced judo when he was younger and it brought him back to the beloved sport.
About 10 years I’ve been coaching now, but before I started when I very small and I quit around 14/15 years old then I started again at 30 with my daughter. It is bad! I must hide my emotions, people tell me I don’t have any but I really have to work hard to hide them, it is difficult and it hurts, and it isn’t the same with others, I think you must be tougher.
Lilijana can’t help but interject, laughing,
He controls me 24/7, my diet, sleep schedule, everything!!
Within North Macedonia, each city has two or three clubs, so finding somewhere to practice isn’t so difficult, but progressing is the tricky part. Edi is a keen judoka and has set the bar high for himself, hoping that continuing on these camps with the worlds elite will take him above and beyond.
This is my second time here but I’ve been in six OTCs supported by the European Judo Union, and I believe that because of this I had my first win on the senior level and it’s the first from my country. It might have only been one fight, but back home, people were happy about it. Of course as an individual I want more, it was in the European Championships in Sofia, but in the second round I was disqualified, it was a learning moment for me!
It isn’t only an OTC or competition, but more importantly, it is always an education, whether it be from coaches, other athletes, or referees.
We have our own physio and doctors, but when we are here surrounded by top athletes, I watch them, I see how they train, what they’re doing and I try to use this and ‘steal’ in this way, the best ways to train. You must be more aware of the most current training if you’re going to improve yourself.
Lilijana couldn’t agree more, and this is her debut on this traditional camp in Austria.
It is a great opportunity for me to get better and to take some results, for me this is my first time in Mittersill, and I was so excited to come here because I get to fight against very professional judoka and they are all my idols! I have loved them and now I am on the tatami with them.
There is no doubt that many judoka have felt this way, being on this camp is almost a rite of passage, entering another world and being part of a new generation, the heroes and superstars of today were once bright eyed juniors looking to take on their idols. It isn’t just the athletes either, coaches are also constantly developing as Borce explains,
Coaches are always learning, and I know many here to talk to. If you ask something, they will tell you, I think this is the way in judo, we are always helping each other.
So how does the future look for the young athletes? Edi has his sights set on the highest level of course,
Grand Slams are our biggest goals, we need to be there more than once a year, the inactivity doesn’t help, your form just drops back down. Our next tournament will be a European Open in February. I think two or three Opens this year before we take the next step, we will also be at the Senior European Championships in Zagreb. My love for judo is just crazy, maybe I could find this is another world with work but I don’t think so, my love for this sport is another level. Even when you see another way that is, say, more profitable, leaving judo is too hard. Judo is something special and you see it, it isn’t only me or our team, it is everyone who feels this way.
This feeling is echoed by Lilijana who isn’t only recognising the importance of the sport itself but the community that comes with it,
I love the sport but also, you meet so many new people from all around the world, this is something very important. I want to succeed here and fulfil my dreams and wishes.
For the team, they can also look forward to more OTC opportunities in Tata and Nymburk this year. The team also highlighted a special event that will reoccur in the EJU calendar in 2024, the Skopje Junior European Cup. Introduced only last year, they welcomed 229 athletes from 29 nations in their debut, putting North Macedonia on the tour map. This is yet another big step for the federation, not only to boost the status of their current judoka, but to attract many more members by showcasing this incredible sport.
Author: Thea Cowen