IJF – by Jo Crowley
IJF Media Team / International Judo Federation
Thirty-one year old Belgian judoka Sandrine Billiet fights for Cape Verde since a few years. This weekend she will fight at the Grand Slam in Tel Aviv for her new country. Billiet is happy to get the chance to fight at the highest level and try to qualify for continental quota for the Olympic Games. Flying from Paris she can visit quite a few main events and pick up a few points.
IJF’s Jo Crowley spoke to the Belgian veteran who trains in the time of Covid-19.
“I converted my garage at home and put mats inside so I can do more and have access to a small training space whenever I need it. I borrowed some training equipment from my local gym, who were very kind, so I can train in a more versatile way in that garage setting.”
Cape Verde is a long way from Belgium and Sandrine has this additional layer of challenge to overcome, while training and competing.
“The Cape Verde Judo Federation President is super supportive but it’s so hard for him to keep his finger on the local logistics, so usually me and my brother organise everything. I’m so grateful to my brother for the help, especially with the administrative side of things.”
I have had trouble with training and partners, of course. A guy and two girls from the local club judo scene have helped me a lot, being training partners whenever we could manage it.
“My brother drove me from our home in Bruges to the airport here in Paris, but there are curfew times in France and so we had to leave enough time for him to get back home again. This meant a bit of a wait for me here, but it’s ok. I’m just glad to be able to travel.
Middelkerke Judo Club have been very sensitive to my situation and have done all they can to support me. The small clubs have been so helpful. It’s not the same as a professional sports world but they really go out of their way to assist me. One training partner is only 17 and he doesn’t have a lot of recent judo. There is a 14 year old girl who is super generous and really wants to train and help but we are very different, with her being so young and also a light weight. Another is of a good weight and strength. They are all so different but all very open and they are truly with me, helping me to achieve what I need. They are really my team in this crazy time and I’m so touched that they are all so helpful and willing. They are clearly improving too from this process and I am happy that they will benefit. It is a perfect jita kyoei situation.
“Cape Verde give me a lot of freedom and respect. Noel Delgado is a new coach for the country and I do a lot of online conferences with him to decide and discuss the programme. At the moment I can’t train with the Cape Verde team in Portugal, where the majority of the team are training and studying, because the Covid stats there make it really impossible, but I hope to rejoin them soon. They are training in the Benfica football stadium grounds.
Billiet will compete on Friday 19th February in the U63kg category. Sandrine was also in action at various Grand Slams in Paris, Düsseldorf, Osaka, Abi Dhabi, Brasilia and also last year in Tel Aviv’s Grand Prix. Read the full interview here