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Number one of the world Peter Paltchik ready for Tel Aviv

4 Jan 2021 10:10

 by JudoCrazy and JudoInside    IJF Gabriela Sabau / International Judo Federation
20200209_paris_final_100_gs_paltchik_peter_2

Israelian World number 1 Peter Paltchik confirmed at the European Championships that he is truly a candidate for the Olympic title, no matter what the circumstances are. He overcame a difficult year, won in the beginning and end, and felt a loss. A year where he learned a lot. Paltchik is on the right track for gold in a massive competitive category U100kg. JudoInside and partner Oon Yeoh of JudoCrazy asked JudoInside’s best athlete of 2020 his vision on the Olympic Year.

Tel Aviv Grand Prix champion, Paris Grand Slam champion and European champion. What does winning these three major events mean to you?

Winning the Tel Aviv GP2020 was meaningful for me as it was with the Israeli audience in attendance. It felt electric for me and gave me a lot of energy entering into the Olympic year. Who would have known in January about the looming coronavirus pandemic? The Paris GS took place only two weeks later and for me, this was the most prestigious competition on the IJF tour with 20,000 people in the stadium. Wow. I was the first Israeli since 2004 to win the gold there. This was a huge achievement for me to get it after being so close to getting it in 2018 and 2019. As for the European Championship, I worked very hard during this year to keep training although we didn’t know when we would have competitions again. Winning the Europeans was proof that I made the right decisions during the year.

It would have been perfect had you won at the Hungary Grand Slam as well. What do you think was different there that caused you to lose in the preliminary rounds?
I came to the competition very confident in myself because I felt I was physically ready. That overconfidence was like a strong slap in the face. But I learned my lesson from that.

Do you think you were really tested last year?
I think humanity was tested. We had nothing like that in the last 100 years. It took time to understand what’s going on. When it was decided to postpone the Olympic Games, I was really upset. It took me 24 hours to decide what to do and to set new goals. I practically built a small CrossFit club in my backyard and had a new routine while the first lockdown took place in Israel. In addition to that I decided to participate in the Ninja Israel VIP show so had to have much more special training, which were very different from the type we do in judo. All of this helped me to move on.

You are now ranked No. 1 in the IJF rankings. Does this hold any significance to you?
To tell you the truth, this is the most significant for me as this means that I did it right this year. Besides the Olympic Games, my goals for 2020 were to win the Europeans and to be ranked No. 1.

JudoInside calls you their “Player of the Year”. Your thoughts?
I was honored and really excited to hear about that. I’ve been working really hard all year long and it heartens me to know that people notice and appreciate my hard work. Thank you for everything.

Israel has been hard hit by waves of Covid-19 surges. How does that affect you, in your training and personally?
As I said the first lockdown was really hard here, but later on Olympic players received permission to train in the training center in Wingate. There are restrictions that we have to follow but we adjust to them. Our team is led by Moshe Ponti, the chairman of the Israeli Judo association, and our coach, Oren Smadja, needed to be creative and think about how to keep us in shape. Everyone just did their best. I hope with the vaccine things will start getting back to normal.

When you travel for international competitions are you worried about Covid-19?
I try not to be worried. I took precautions like wearing a mask, keeping my hands clean, and following the rules. For each competition, we need to do four to five Covid-19 tests to keep things safe.

A recent survey found that most Japanese prefer for the Olympics not to be held due to Covid-19. What’s your reaction to that?
I believe the Olympic Games is going to be held in July 2021 and we are going to celebrate the biggest sports event in humanity. It’s that same spirit that allowed humanity to develop a vaccine in less than a year. We need that spirit to prevail.

You did Zoom sessions with young judokas. Can you tell us about that?
During the first lockdown when all judo clubs were shut down, I decided to do a project called “Ask Peter”. It’s a 60-minute Zoom session. I offered this to any club that wanted it. In four weeks I spoke to more than 5000 Judo athletes of all ages from Israel and the United States. Between lockdowns, I launched a unique seminar for judo clubs where I taught movement and mobility trainings, and of course some judo moves. It’s important to keep in touch with judokas and my fans. I try to help them as much as I can.

Your category is full of top players. It might be one of the hardest categories. Which players would you name as your Top 3 rivals and what is your comment about each of them?
Varlam Liparteliani (GEO): He's my childhood hero and now, a good friend. I really appreciate his judo. Our battles are very passionate and I love that.
Cho Guham (KOR): We haven’t had a chance to fight each other yet but he’s an amazing fighter and I look forward to it.
Aaron Wolf (JPN): One of the best judoka in the world, with great techniques. I met him in Paris 2019 and lost that time. So, I hope to meet him again soon.

What would you wish for yourself for your birthday?
First, I wish for all of us to defeat Covid-19 and get back to normal life. Secondly, I wish for myself the chance to stand on the Olympic podium later in the year.

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Related Judo Photos

  • Peter Paltchik (ISR) - Grand Slam Paris (2020, FRA) - © Lars Moeller, International Judo Federation
  • Peter Paltchik (ISR), Varlam Liparteliani (GEO) - Grand Slam Paris (2020, FRA) - © IJF Gabriela Sabau, International Judo Federation
  • Peter Paltchik (ISR) - Grand Prix Tel Aviv (2020, ISR) - © IJF Gabriela Sabau, International Judo Federation

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