Written by Jo Crowley on 08. May 2024
Photographs by Gabriela Sabau, Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Throughout this Olympic qualification period there has been a strong presence from the Chinese women’s team and just recently, in Dushanbe, the men have also made a return to the World Judo Tour.

Miao Gao is the Chinese Team Manager and he explained the federation’s ideas. “Gathering athletes from all around the world in different places is exciting. Having all these different types of judo in competition together produces an outstanding level.

For the Chinese team they don’t have too many opportunities to compete internationally and so as a federation we are working hard to get our athletes abroad, for them to learn what judo is like outside China and outside Asia. It’s a worldwide sport after all.”

Qi Cai (CHN), -57 kg.

Among the Chinese athletes sitting in qualification for Paris 2024 is Qi Cai, current Asian Championships medallist at -57 kg. She explains how she approaches a life on the World Judo Tour, “We have a very good coach and all our training is designed by him. Especially before competition we have period of specific training including physical and technical work. We train very hard every day. We have a Georgian coach now, for a year or so. I think we learned a lot from him and he changed some things in our schedule. Our former team coach was Chinese and also very good but now we have a new perspective on world judo.”

Competing in Dushanbe, 2024.

“I like judo. I want to win an Olympic gold medal like all the athletes here do. I started when I was very young; I was always sporty. After a lot of judo training in the early years, I gradually became more integrated with it. Through judo I can be independent, I find personal freedom in this sport. In recent years I have travelled to different places around the world. I train and compete with athletes from other countries and backgrounds and I like the feeling of communicating with others; I feel more in contact with the context of the wider world. I can feel that our team managers also learn a lot from travelling with us and the whole team becomes more professional together. We get closer as a team and can get the best out of each other.

On the Qasaqstan Barysy podium, 2023.

In judo, when you’re in competition you never know what will happen in the next second. It’s my way to always keep going, never give up, to the very end. All we do points to the success we aim at. Judo is a sport in which we must grab our chance and feel your way. We must identify what the opponent’s aim. All is uncertain and you must be totally in tune with what is happening there and then, making use of all the training and previous experience.”

Dushanbe Grand Prix bronze, 2023.

Qi Cai’s next appearance will be in Kazakhstan in just a few days time, keen to continue applying all she is learning, to keep improving towards her own goals and the team’s goals.

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