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Last weekend in Tashkent Martti Puumalainen was the first male Finnish judoka who reached the last eight in ten years. With two victories in his pocket he was opposed to Ushangi Kokauri and lost that match. The previous week in Prague Puumalainen fought in the semi final against World Champion Lukas Krpalek. His Slovenian coach Rok Drakic is in Finland since last year and is booking progress.
Draksic fought himself in the U66kg and U73kg weight divisions, he participated in three Olympic Games, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro and was several times a medallist on the World Judo Tour.
“First of all, I really enjoy my job. I started in September as head coach in Finland. We are still in the process of building the team, but I believe strongly that the future is bright for us. This is my first experience as a coach on the World Judo Tour and we are so happy to be able to be here. The IJF is doing an amazing job to give us the opportunity to travel and we are very lucky to be able to compete and coach during this difficult time.”
Amid his first IJF event as a coach, Rok Draksic still remembers what it was like to be an athlete, “I have really good memories of my performance career and now, looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. It was without a doubt a great time in my life. Judo made me who I am today.“
Transition as a coach
Talking about the transition from athlete to coach the Slovenian said, “Of course it is different, actually completely different, but I really like it and I am enjoying each minute of this new challenge. It is still connected to judo and now I’m transmitting my experience to other people, this is what judo is all about. Now it is my time to give back what judo gave to me. When I was a professional athlete, I was already teaching children in the Judo Club Bezigrad in Slovenia and I assisted with the cadets, so for me this transition was clear. I really knew that it was what I wanted to do. I had the chance to teach for 3 years and I had lots of good experience from then, before accepting the position of Head Coach in Finland.”
Being in charge of a national team means prioritising, “Our main goal is Paris 2024. For the moment we are here in Tashkent and we will go to other IJF WJT events before Tokyo 2020. We have strong athletes and some good chances to get them qualified, but we know that the road is long and we keep our heads directed towards Paris 2024. Since September when I arrived in Finland, I took this challenge as if it was a competition, like when I was younger and started to compete at the highest level. For the time being, it is important to get experience, see where we are and look forward and improve. We can train at home, but we all know how important it is to do training camps and get experience with other athletes, to improve our skills for future results.“
Judo DNA of coach the same
Rok Draksic has now started experiencing what it means to change his lifestyle and he definitely has good advice for athletes who may be in his position in the future, “First you need to try the experience as a coach and you need to feel it, you need to be passionate and think about it as a dream job. The road is long and you will have ups and downs. It is a completely different field from that we were used to as athletes, but if you are passionate and you work hard you will be successful. Everything is new! In this role you are like a big teacher, not only on the tatami with tactical, technical and physical training, but also with exploring other fields, such as psychology, nutrition, physiotherapy. You will need to adapt yourself to each one of the athletes. Judo DNA is the same, we all share the same values, but the athlete’s judo style is different from one athlete to the next. If you are really passionate about coaching, one thing that won’t change: you will feel the same adrenaline
The last Finnish man who stood on the podium in the IJF World Tour was Valtteri Jokinen in 2011 in Baku. The last female Finnish player to medal was Jaana Sundberg in 2015 in Tblisi.
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