London, July 31, 2012
Germany’s celebrated judo star Ole Bischof will be in London hoping to win a second straight Olympic gold medal after his success in Beijing. Here he tells Laureus.com how unique the atmosphere is at the Olympic Games and how he is determined to win again at the age of 32.
Question: Were you a keen sports player when you were young?
Ole Bischof: Yes, I tried all kinds of sports – swimming, tennis, football.
Q: Can you tell us how you came to choose judo?
Ole: I was fascinated by the sport when I saw it the first time, especially I liked the outfit. I thought it was really cool. I really liked to grapple with my friends at school. I always felt it answered a natural drive in me, so judo was a good fit for me as my main sport of choice.
Q: Did you get support from your family?
Ole: My parents are both PE teachers and of course they supported me in finding the right sport for me. However they didn’t push me or make it easy for me. I had to get to practise on a bike every time, no car rides….
Q: Was there a point as a young judoka when you said to yourself ‘I can be an Olympic champion’?
Ole: Actually, yes there was. I watched the Olympic judo competition in 1988 in Seoul. Marc Meiling from Germany won the silver medal in the half-heavyweight and everybody around me was very enthusiastic about it. I knew Marc back then because I had trained with him. I was rather disappointed it was only a silver. I asked my father if I could win gold one day. My father just tapped me on my head and said ‘Sure you can’. Well 20 years later I did.
Q: You were making good progress in your career, then in 2004 you were replaced by Florian Wanner for the Athens Olympic Games. What was the story behind that?
Ole: It was a very simple decision. He was World Champion at that time and there was only one place on the team.
Q: Was that the low moment in your career?
Ole: No. In 2005, I suffered a knee injury that took me out of judo for more than five months. I actually recovered very fast, considering how bad the injury was, but that was very tough.
Q: Presumably your gold medal in Beijing was the highlight of your career?
Ole: Yes, absolutely, it is the highlight of my career. I enjoyed it so much, especially the time after and the celebration. The atmosphere at the Olympics is very unique. All these athletes coming together, it’s unbelievable. I hope we will see the same special spirit in London.
Q: You have had a great start to 2012 with the Grand Slam gold medal you won in Paris. You became the first German in 15 years to do that – how significant was that in Olympic Year?
Ole: That was very important for me. The Grand Slam in Paris is the most important tournament next to the Olympics - it is the Wimbledon for judo. To be the first German winning there after 15 years was a great honour for me. I also won the tournament in Dusseldorf and both of these successes have given me a tailwind for the Olympics in London.
Q: You are 32 that means you will be competing against younger judokas – does experience help in these situations?
Ole: In judo terms I am considered old, but that does not have to be a disadvantage.
Q: And what about your fitness? Are your preparations for the Olympics going well?
Ole: I will rest and do only some very short training to keep up my liveliness.
Q: Who are your main rivals for the gold medal in London?
Ole: Kim Jae-Bum from Korea and Leandro Guilheiro from Brazil. I have won and lost to each of them this year. So it will be close.
Q: You have been appointed a Laureus Ambassador, what does that mean to you?
Ole: I believe that successful sportsmen have a responsibility to give something back to society and to help disadvantaged young people. Laureus is using sport for social change and I really believe in this concept. You can reach young people either with playing with a ball or by using their natural instinct for fighting. Judo is an ideal sport to influence young people in the right way. Judo is all about fairness, it stands for respect for each other. We do have the Japanese traditional rituals like to bow to your opponent. And we never want to destroy each other, the goal is to make each other a better judoka. These values are important also outside the gym. Judo is also about courage. It teaches you to face challenges in general.
Q: Do you have favourite Laureus project?
Ole: We are in the build-up to start a judo project in Germany which I hope we can start soon.
Q: You are a rugby enthusiast. That seems unusual for a German, can you explain that?
Ole: Rugby is not big in Germany, but I really love the sport. It is judo with a ball. I am a supporter of the New Zealand All Blacks and whenever I can I watch a game live. I was delighted that they won the Rugby World Cup last October.