During an interview with the Sports Gazette, Sugoi Uriarte proudly announced that “judo is the reigning martial art.” This sport has made him European Champion, he was runner-up for the World Championship and was awarded an Olympic diploma in London 2012, and it has been part of his life since he was a little boy.
Now he trains budding professionals in the Centro de Alto Rendimiento (CAR) – High-Performance Centre – in Valencia, Spain.
According to Uriarte, judo is popular with children because it helps them socialise, get speed, and strength, based on the 400 members of his own club. These children might go into the CAR in the future; the age span of professional judokas goes between 16 and 32.
“Judo is the third most practised sport in the world, it has over 110,000 licensed competitors,” Uriarte told the Sports Gazette.
Sugoi Uriarte praises the opening of the CAR’s gym and the residence for the judokas in Valencia. Photo: Sugoi Uriarte Instagram
The Spaniard moved to Valencia from the Basque country with his younger brother when he was about to start university, to train and become a professional – his mother’s only condition was that he had to study a degree.
“If I started over, I would make the same decisions,” he recalls, having rejected lots of late-night party invitations.
“I would like to tell you I’m an Olympic champion, but I’m not. At least, I’m proud of having fought for it.” Uriarte retired after the Olympics in Río in 2016, partly because of an injury, and remembers it as a tough moment.
Nevertheless, he says “we are used to stories with a happy ending, and I knew that had to be mine.” He then took part in the European Championship and won silver with his team.
Having been a professional judoka, two moments stick in Sugoi Uriarte’s mind.
“One of the tournaments [the European Championship] I remember with great enthusiasm.” In fact, this silver medal hadn’t been won by any other Spanish team.
The other moment was the individual final in the 2009 World Championship, when he beat one of his idols, the Hungarian Miklos Ungvari.
After the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, he took charge of his team and started doing what he had already done as a player: try to make the players better.
Although, he says, the most difficult part is the coaching itself.
Sugoi is currently studying a PhD in English, and as he puts it,”maybe in the future I could be a university lecturer, and could be compatible with my coaching in the CAR.”
Coming up: After speaking to Sugoi Uriarte, the Sports Gazette spoke to Ana Perez Box, his apprentice on the road to Tokio 2020.