Perhaps the biggest talent of Turkey ever, Bilal Ciloglu became Junior World Champion in 2018 and for sure he will qualify for the Games, but he wants more, why not in 2021. Turkey closed quite late for the coronacrisis, Oon Yeoh of JudoCrazy asked him how he is doing and all about his ambitions and weapons.
JIC: How is the Covid-19 situation where you live?
BC: It is not too severe here but most places are closed. We are spending time at home and only going out to buy necessities.
JIC: When was the last time you did judo?
BC: I was in Japan for judo training in March but since I returned to Turkey, I’ve not done any judo.
JIC: Are you doing some solo training at home?
BC: Of course, I have to. It’s not the same as normal judo training but at least it keeps me fit. Not as satisfying as real judo but I’m happy.
JIC: Besides training, what else are you doing?
BC: Just spending time with the family. Normally, when I’m doing judo, I don’t get to spend that much time with them, so in this sense there is something good to come out of it. I try to look at the bright side of things.
JIC: Prior to the lock-down how often did you train in judo?
BC: We were on a rigorous program because of the Olympics, so we trained twice a day.
JIC: How old were you when you started judo and did you like it straight away?
BC: I was 11 when I started but to be honest, I preferred football. But my father encouraged me to stick with judo, so I did. I became champion in my first Turkish Championships, so I started training very seriously after that.
JIC: What’s a typical route for a Turkish kid who wants to grow up to be an international competitor?
BC: I think the most important thing is to look for a good coach. You need to find someone knowledgeable to guide you. In Turkey, the selection is done after the national championships every year. The ones who make it will be invited to attend a national team camp and they will select some to go for international competitions.
JIC: What made you want to compete at such a high level?
BC: I would say my passion for judo made me want to set high goals for myself in this sport.
JIC: As a full-time athlete, who pays your salary?
BC: I receive my basic salary from my club but the Olympic Committee gives some additional support.
JIC: How do you feel about your transition from junior to senior judo?
BC: I like it because I want to do real judo. To me cadet and junior judo are just stepping stones to the real thing. It is important that I fight strong seniors to prove myself. Now, I am fighting the best in the world and I enjoy it very much.
JIC: Speaking of the best, you’ve fought Shohei Ono and Soichi Hashimoto — both huge throwers — but neither of them could throw you. Ono had to resort to groundwork and Hashimoto relied on penalties to win. No doubt you were defeated but was it some consolation that they couldn’t throw you?
BC: There is some consolation but I’m not satisfied with it. I view these as learning experiences. I made mistakes but I learned from them. I want this. I need this in order to improve.
JIC: Do you think you can beat Ono the next time you meet him?
BC: Let’s just say I have a new strategy for fighting him!
JIC: Your kouchi-gake is wicked. What’s the secret to it?
BC: Well, I have very long legs and I'm able to use my legs to hook my opponent from any gripping position. Once I hook in, I will persist until my opponent goes down.
JIC: What other techniques do you like?
BC: Osoto-gari, kosoto-gari and sumi-gaeshi. All these techniques suit my long legs and they've work well for me in competition.
JIC: Any long-legged technique you’ve yet to master?
BC: Yes, uchimata. Sadly.
JIC: What are your short-term goals?
BC: An European gold and a World medal.
JIC: Let me guess, your long-term goal is to become Olympic champion?
BC: That’s right. I will not stop until I get that gold medal.
JIC: Do you feel you sacrifice a lot of things for your judo aspirations?
BC: Yes, many things. I don’t spend enough time with my family, my friends, my girlfriend. I don’t go on holidays like other people. I just can’t spare the time. But I don’t complain about this because I have my goals.
JIC: What aspects of training do you like and dislike?
BC: I don’t like training at all… but I like the results of training!
JIC: What is judo to you?
BC: My job, my passion, my life.
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