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He’ll keep his bottom. The judoka left for a coach at fifteen and now boasts gold

The medal on Renata Zachová’s neck shines beautifully. At the end of April, the judoka from Olomouc won it at the European Championship in Zagreb and she is proud of it. She became the first ever Czech European champion in this sport. However, the twenty-three-year-old fighter in the weight category up to 63 kilograms is not going to rest on her laurels. The World Championships in Abu Dhabi await her in May and the Olympic summit in Paris in the summer

Renata Zachová, the first Czech European judo champion

| Photo: ČTK/Krumphanzl Michal

“The medal is beautiful, heavy and, above all, gold. It’s a great feeling, but I don’t want it to end with this medal. I have the motivation to keep going,” says coach Jiří Štěpán’s confidante, who took her first judo steps together with her twin brother Petr, in an interview for Deník.

What ideas did you have when you originally traveled to Zagreb?
At every race I want to get to the final fights. I also went to the European Championship with this intention. I always want to win and fight for precious metals. However, I don’t want to dwell too much on such thoughts. I feel it would make me nervous and put pressure on myself.


The joy of Renata Zachová after the final victory at the European Judo Championship

Zachová’s medal was not enough. The finale isn’t enough, I’m in for a treat, she thought to herself. And she got him

You are originally from South Bohemia, how did you get into judo?
We started training with my brother in České Budějovice. I remember how we went to the first practice together in the second grade, and we already stuck with it…

Were you a kid who used to compete at home?
I remember we fought in one tournament. We faced each other a total of three times and in this direction I have a more successful balance in the ratio of 2:1. So Petr doesn’t like it when I tell it somewhere, because we were really small. (smiles) But this has not happened more than once, because older children are divided by gender. Besides, we fought at home, which was kind of like sibling rivalry.

Coach Jiří Štěpán’s opinion

Renci’s strength is that she can develop explosive power, get into the grapple and use technique well, which will lead her to victory in close matches. She is able to throw her opponent forward, backward, right, left. Her greatest assets are patience and honest work in situations where it hurts. He can handle even a six-week concentration, where there is no social contact and it is mentally demanding.

At the age of fifteen, you and Petr took a decisive step and left the family residence in Svátý Jan nad Malší for judo. How did the parents take it?
I pushed it to ours until they agreed to it. I took it as there was no other option. We both started secondary school in Olomouc, but it must have been difficult for my mother. I get it. She had two children at home and they were both a mess. I remember that when we came home for the weekend, she enjoyed two days with us and there were tears when we left. She had a hard time…

Jiří Štěpán started training you in Olomouc, you have been together for eight years…
It was because of him that I left for Hana. He offered me a transfer at the age of fourteen and I didn’t see any other option.

You obviously made the right choice, but doesn’t some sort of submarine sickness appear after all during long training sessions?
We know each other well over the years. When there is no training and we all want to be alone, we don’t cross paths. I think we manage it well, even if it is long camps abroad.

You train together with the Kosovo national team. What is the benefit to you?
It is mainly a grip from above. Kosovo judokas are the best in the world. I was able to closely observe the effort and energy that Majlinda Kelmendi puts into her training, who became the country’s first Olympic champion in Rio. Training in Kosovo is extremely demanding, but we knew it could push us.

You seem to live as a judo twenty-four hours a day…
It doesn’t just apply when I’m sleeping. I usually don’t even think about judo. (Laughs)

What is the best way to relax after judo?
I like to roller skate, but due to the colder weather, I am lacking in that aspect. My friend and I bought a dog Vločka a year ago, so we walk her between training sessions and enjoy it. It’s a cross between a Chihuahua and something, and it fits into a larger purse.

What do you enjoy most about judo?
I like to throw opponents around. In the final in Zagreb, I managed to do it with the Dutch Joanne van Lieshout thanks to a sode curi komi goši grab. It is held by the sleeves and can be thrown in several directions. It’s best if it hits the tatami from a height. Even after a week I feel great about it.

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