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Judo in the time of Covid-19: Baruch Shmailov
26 May 2020 08:35
Baruch Shmailov is the best ranked Israelian athlete U66kg and he is a top 10 player for three years now. He is the chosen one for the Olympic Games, but corona changed the world. Oon Yeoh of JudoCrazy spoke with Baruch Shmailov about his roots, the Israelian competition techniques and love.
JIC: Can you tell us about how you got started in judo?
BS: I started judo when I was six years old. I also did some other sports but judo was so much fun, it became the one I stuck with. I was sent to Wingate Institute at the age of 12, separated from the family and friends, in order to take my judo to another level. I graduated from Wingate at the age of 18. It taught me how to set goals and become dedicated to sports at a young age.
JIC: Were your parents very supportive of you moving to Wingate?
BS: Oh, I got the push to do this from my mother! Ha… ha…
JIC: How are you coping with the lock-down? Are you assigned a quarantine partner to train with?
BS: My aim is to get out of this Covid-19 lock-down even better than I went into it. My coach, Oren Smadga, made sure we had enough weights to do self-training at home and a training program for us to adhere to. My training partner is Eyal Zonis.
JIC: You had qualified for the Olympics. Tal Flicker too. But you were ranked higher. Does the postponement change anything?
BS: At the end of February I was chosen to represent Israel in the Olympics, based on my ranking. As far as I know, for now, nothing has changed.
JIC: Flicker is your teammate and your rival as well. Since you and Flicker are in the same category, do you randori with him all the time? What is your relationship with him like?
BS: We have a big team training together. There are lots of randori partners so it’s not necessary for us to fight each other all the time but we do train together. We have a good relationship. We never let our rivalry get in the way of that.
JIC: You do big throws. Is it your philosophy to go for ippon all the time?
BS: My philosophy has always been: “Go big or go home”. I love to watch and do attractive judo. Of course, results are important but the way you win is no less important, in my opinion. I hope people enjoy watching my fights.
JIC: You do a special technique some have called “front uchimata”, which was made famous by Zantaraia. How did you develop this technique?
BS: Oh yeah, I love that technique. Since I was a kid, I really liked power techniques. I just experimented a lot with it and tried doing different variations, from different angles. It kind of came to me quite naturally, actually.
JIC: Generally, how do you develop your techniques? Do you discover it yourself or do your coaches teach you?
BS: I usually like to watch new stuff but I also get a lot of help from my personal coaches, Artur Kataev and Eran Vardi, who are very close to me. They make sure I’m always growing and developing my judo.
JIC: I take it you watch a lot of judo videos?
BS: Yes, of course! I love watching videos, both for enjoyment and for judo development.
JIC: Are up naturally left-handed?
BS: I am naturally right-handed but when I was very young my coach taught me to fight as a lefty.
JIC: A lot of Israeli male players do sode-tsurikomi-goshi, including you. Is this the influence of Oren Smadga?
BS: Definitely. He has a crazy sode and he is such a strong character, so he influences us all.
JIC: You have amazing techniques, you have beaten some of the best players in the world, and you are ranked in the Top 10. But you have yet to get an IJF World Tour gold medal — although you’ve come close four times, and have four silver medals. How do you avoid getting demoralized when you don’t get the results you want?
BS: It’s a little frustrating but I’m sure I’m going to get gold soon. I know what I’m capable of and I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I can be the best. I’m fortunate to have friends and family who support me all the way. This helps a lot.
JIC: One of your biggest supporters is Betina Temelkova, who is your fiance. But aren’t you concerned that being married will hinder your judo training?
BS: I think totally the opposite of that. The fact that I have someone important with me in this journey will motivate me more. I guess it helps that she used to be a professional judoka herself. She knows what a judoka’s life is all about. You are right, she is my biggest supporter.
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