Judo is a very special sport and we see examples of it daily and in many ways. One of them is the constant travel of athletes and coaches to other countries of the world in order to seek more training partners and improve their abilities.

After the cadet world championships in Sarajevo, the world was surprised by the success of the Indian athlete, future champion of the -57 kg category; Linthoi CHANAMBAM. Now she travels and trains in new places, including Judo Club Solin in Croatia with Dragan CRNOV, the coach of the latest Croatian superstar, Lara CVJETKO.

Linthoi CHANAMBAM (IND). © Carlos Ferreira

In my club, Judo Club Solin, there are two very good competitors, Ana Viktorija PULJIZ and Lara CVJETKO, but we also do joint training with other clubs and also Barbara MATIC at Judo Club Pujanke. Also, last month we have a guest from India, Linthoi CHANAMBAM, she is the junior world champion and a really great person, a good judoka. I met his trainer at the Youth Olympic Games when Ana was fighting in Buenos Aires, we remained friends and he decided to come to my club for a month. We are really happy to have her here and she has a good friendship with my team of cadets.

Crnov is happy to have young athletes in the club and knows the value of having successful senior athletes, the effect they can have on this up-and-coming talent.

It’s really important to have young talents working with seniors, for example, Ana, Lara and Barbara, they have a big influence on young talents. They are good role models and they always help to improve their judo.

Speaking of this senior success, in 2021 Croatia made history when Barbara MATIC won the world title in the -70 kg category, so it was a sensational day for Croatian judo in Tashkent, when Lara CVJETKO , 21, exceeded expectations, moving comfortably from round to round until she faced her teammate in the world championship final. We’ve already spoken with Cvjetko in Tashkent, but what was it like for his coach, Crnov, to take him to a senior world final?

It’s an incredible feeling to have a medalist from the senior world championships and especially to have her in the final with Barbara, it was a great feeling for us. I knew she could do it, we had trained really hard for that day and I was hoping for it but there is always the possibility that a day doesn’t go your way, any tips or tactics didn’t go well but she was perfect and we came back with a silver medal.

Barbara MATIC and Lara CVJETKO, final of the -70kg 2022 world championships. © Thea Cowen

Back home that evening, there was already a lot of media attention, desperate to speak with the reigning world champion Matic, but also the vice-world champion.

There was so much media, so much interest in Croatia, we met the Prime Minister, the President of Croatia, the Ministry of Defense and many TV channels, but I was trying immediately after the world championships to get her back to full training. Just to allow him to focus on new competitions. We will be at the Masters and before that Baku Grand Slam and I thought a lot of media would destroy his focus so after a few days we came back.

This success for Croatia came as a surprise, although the women of their national team have gone from strength to strength over the past two years, attesting at some point in the pandemic pause to their success and their ability to leave and work on their strength, work as a team and are now a force to be reckoned with. But now we have athletes, including Chanambam, coming from countries that previously had little talent in the ranks. So how important are coaches in this process?

Coaches are really important to change everything, if a coach is good and gives his all, he can change a lot of things. I came to this club 13 years ago and coached Ana Viktorija Puljiz since she was 7 and now she is a junior. She has a medal at the senior European championships, continental titles as a cadet and U23 and also a medal from the Mediterranean Games, in addition she has numerous medals at cadet, junior and senior level, as well as on the IJF circuit. I believe you can achieve anything you want, when you have competitors who believe in you too.

Dragan CRNOV and Ana Viktorija PULJIZ – 2022 Senior European Championships. © Gabi Juan

Author: Thea Cowen

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