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Judo in the time of Covid-19: Laerke Olsen
23 May 2020 08:45
Laerke Olsen is one of the three super talents of Denmark. With Emmy Sook and Mathias Madsen they travel the world to fight with the best. It’s a long time since Denmark had such judo generation however internationally it’s very hard to get traction. For a small judo country like Denmark you must do everything everyday to reach the Olympic dream. JudoCrazy’s Oon Yeoh spoke with Laerke Marie Olsen.
JIC: Is Laerke a common Danish name and does it have a meaning?
LO: Both Laerke and Olsen are common names in Denmark. However, the combination of the two isn’t that common, and seeing someone else named Laerke Olsen and having Marie as their middle name as well… it’s really a surprise. Laerke is a bird, by the way.
JIC: How did you train during the lock-down?
LO: I had some weights and some mats, and even a throwing dummy I borrowed from my dojo. So, I was able to do some training at home. My dad used to do judo when he was younger, so I was able to practice a bit of uchikomi on him as well. No throws or randori though. He’s too old for that!
JIC: How old were you when you started doing judo?
LO: For me, it was a parent-kid thing when I was three years old. My father had me and my brother doing judo with him.
JIC: Did you like it from the start?
LO: I wasn’t so crazy about it at first and was curious about other sports but once I started competing, I fell in love with judo.
JIC: Which club do you train at?
LO: I belong to a small club close to where I grew up. It’s called Hilleroed. Since there aren’t enough randori partners, most judokas gather together almost every day in Copenhagen to train together. This is the way to have more partners for training. In Copenhagen, we can be up to 10 girls ranging from -57 kg to -70 kg on good days. However, most days we are just five to seven. We also fight with a lot of the younger guys to get more sparring. Copenhagen is just a 25-minute drive for me, so it’s quite convenient.
JIC: I noticed with your ippon-seoi-nage, you hold uke’s right lapel with your left hand and you turn in right for the seoi-nage. This is exactly how Toshihiko Koga did it. Were you influenced by him and did your coach teach you this?
LO: I really liked Koga’s seoi-nage and yes, my coach also taught me this technique.
JIC: Being an international competitor means lots of training and lots of sacrifice. Do you sometimes wish you had more free time like other girls your age?
LO: Personally, I don’t see these things as sacrifices. But of course, I wish I could spend more time with my friends and family. I have a very understanding family, and friends as well, and we do our best to fit it some time together. I think this is very important.
JIC: You got a silver medal in the 2018 Junior Worlds and have been competing in senior judo since late 2018. How has the transition to senior judo been?
LO: I already started competing in the seniors in 2018, when I was still a junior, in order to ease the transition. However, it’s still been a very hard transition. I’ve had a few good results but also many tough losses. At senior level, there is no room for mistakes.
JIC: Competition means you sometimes win and you sometimes lose. How well do you deal with defeat?
LO: I get very emotional when I lose. I become very disappointed with myself. But after I’ve had some time to reflect, I always bounce back and head to the dojo with a desire to do better next time. I have to admit, sometimes it’s hard not to be demoralized but what I do is I think about all the great things about judo training, like seeing my teammates and being happy training together.
JIC: Are you also studying?
LO: I took some time off from studies to prepare for the Olympics. The plan was to apply to Copenhagen Business School to begin my studies in September. I wanted to wait until after the Olympics because of the pressure and the amount of travelling you have to do for competitions in order to qualify. Now there’s this postponement but I plan to go ahead and study since I miss it a lot and I think it gives more balance to my life.
JIC: Prior to the postponement for the Olympics you had not qualified yet. There were a few other qualification competitions like Morocco and Ekaterinburg which, I believe you were aiming for. How did you feel when those were cancelled?
LO: When Morocco was cancelled I was very frustrated. We were just about to leave for it and I was feeling very good prior to it. Then, I tried to refocus on Ekaterinburg the following week. When that was cancelled as well, knew everything else was going to be cancelled. So, I realized there was no point being frustrated or upset about it.
JIC: How do you feel about Olympics would be postponed?
LO: I think a lot of people saw it coming given the circumstances, so it wasn’t really a surprise. I consider it a blessing in disguise. As a young player, I have more time to develop both mentally and physically.
JIC: What do your parents think about you competing internationally and your Olympic goals?
LO: They support it a lot and always have. My father has always been a big part of my judo journey.
JIC: What does judo mean to you?
LO: Judo means a lot to me and I don’t just mean competitive judo. I love the friendships I have gained from judo and the various experiences I’ve gotten over the years because of judo. I really enjoy the Danish training camps where everyone attends. It’s something I’ve taken part in since I was a kid. Denmark is a small judo nation and the Danish judo family means the world to me.
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