Brazilian judoka Sergio Oliveira had his career from 1989 until 2001 and won lots of World Cup medals in his category U71kg and U73kg. The triple Panam Champion moved to Germany years ago as a coach and is very active nowadays producing online videos. JudoCRazy’s Oon Yeoh is from the same generation and asked him about his corona strategies.
JIC: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in judo?
SO: I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and I started judo at an academy called “Associação Moacyr de Judô”. Actually, I was there to take up swimming but as it turned out, the swimming class was full, so I signed up for judo instead!
JIC: Did you stick with that club throughout?
SO: No, my second club was “Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras”, a multi-sports club that had a very famous soccer team. My third club was the “Esporte Clube Pinheiros”, which I stayed with the longest — for 22 years, from 1985 to 2007. It’s also a multi-sports club and one of the biggest in the Pan-America region. It’s there that I learned how to be a competitor.
JIC: When were you active as a competitor?
SO: It was in the 1990s. During that time, I was Pan-American Champion three times, once as a junior, and twice as a senior. I also competed in the 1991 World Championships and 1992 Olympic Games, both held in Barcelona.
JIC: You said you left your club in 2007?
SO: Yes, it was that year that I moved to Germany to take up a job as judo coach at the Olympic Training Center in Rheinland-Pfalz/Saarland, to help develop young judo talent. As a coach, I was involved in trainings, periodization, competitions and training camps. It was from there that successful athletes like Alexander Wieczerzak and Jasmin Kuelbs emerged.
JIC: How did you end up getting a job in Germany?
SO: Through judo, I made many friends from around the world. I fought in the Bundesliga (German judo league) for Wiesbaden and Rüsselsheim and got a few offers here and there but the real opportunity came in 2007. I was at the Olympic Training Center in Rheinland-Pfalz/Saarland for about 10 years.
JIC: What did you do after that?
SO: In 2017 I began work at the National Olympic Training Center in Berlin as the men’s head coach. My contract just ended in April, this year.
JIC: That was a relative short stint compared to your previous one. Couldn’t you have extended your contract?
SO: My contract was for a limited period of time. I was prepared to sign an extension, and it was supposed to happen but the judo federations guidelines changed at the beginning of the year and the extension didn't materialize. I was taken by surprised. I thought I was going to continue and had even refused other offers that had come my way.
JIC: Do you know why it wasn’t extended?
SO: I think there’s no point speculating or discussing this matter. At the moment I’m recovering from a hip surgery and will seek some new opportunities out there.
JIC: Do you plan to go elsewhere or stay in Germany?
SO: I have no immediate plans to leave Germany but what’s important is that I find a place where I can do a serious, coherent and professional job. It doesn’t matter where it is. I am a citizen of the world. The universe is my limit.
JIC: Having spent a lot of time in Brazil and Germany, what would you say is the main difference between Brazilian judo and German or European judo?
SO: It’s hard to generalize but let me put it this way. A lot of people compare Brazilian judo to Japanese judo because the style of play is similar. But that happened by chance because in the early days, a lot of Japanese people immigrated to Brazil and they brought with them judo. We did not go to the source of judo. The source of judo came to us. In contrast, many early European judokas went to Japan to learn judo and their interpretation of it was influenced by the local culture of those European judokas.
JIC: You mentioned hip surgery. Can you tell us about that?
SO: My hip problem is due to a mix of genetics, wear and tear from sports and injuries. All these things combined cause my hips to require surgery. Now, I’m a bionic man!
JIC: How was the operation?
SO: The team that attended to me was highly competent and my friend, Christoph Meister, who is both a doctor and a judoka, did an excellent job. After the operation I was at a recovery clinic for four weeks and walked out of there without the help of crutches. Now, slowly, I am recovering my hip movements. I expect to be healed in three months.
JIC: You recently began to post a lot of judo videos on YouTube. What are your ambitions for that and do you plan to eventually offer paid content?
SO: I plan to create a website where I can offer something special. Those who are interested can pay a fair fee to access the content and they will also be eligible to attend some training camps that I plan to organize.
JIC: What do you think will be the lasting impact of the Covid-19 situation on judo clubs?
SO: Difficult to say right now, what will happen. For sure, once this is over there will be a need to dispel people’s fear about the virus so that they will come back to training. Local solutions must be found but I think we judokas will eventually find a way.
JIC: How are you keeping busy these days?
SO: I’m continuing to make videos, undergoing physiotherapy, eating well, getting plenty of rest and thinking about life.
JIC: Any words to other international judokas out there?
SO: Lead a good life, fight the good fight and be patient. Let us meet up one day!
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