Estonia’s Aleksei Budolin Reflects On The Best Year Of His Judo Career

Sometimes, it is the simple things in life that can trump any big moment. For Aleksei Budolin, his two worlds were intertwining in 2001, and only one mattered.

Judo Inside spoke to Budolin regarding a day in his life he would not change. The Estonian discussed the time he was 25 and in the middle of one of the biggest runs of his career.

“2001 was the best year of my sporting life,” Budolin stated. “I was 25 years old and at my peak, at the top of my game. After years of dedication, I was in the upper echelon. Give me the whole year from January to December and I wouldn’t change a thing.

“Every match I participated in I won, from the Estonian Championships at the start of the year, all the way through to the first-ever Moscow Grand Prix in December, every match that is barring one. Each match I’d dominated, except the Final of the World Championships in Munich, against the smart Korean In-Chul Cho. Despite it being my only blemish on a pristine calendar, I’d like to go back and relive this day.”

A multi-time medalist, Budolin won the silver medal in the 1999 European Championships. Ony a few months later, the now-44-year-old won bronze in the 2000 Olympics in Syndey for -81 kg. He then won silver in the 2001 World Championships and gold in the 2001 European Championships. This came after a successful 1996 run.

A man disciplined to handle any pressures, this particular day in time was different. In-Chul Cho beat Budolin in the Syndey Olympics via penalties, and this time, he was two shidos ahead. Budolin’s mind, however, was on something else, resulting in In-Chul Cho hitting an Ippon for the win. Although he lost, Budolin learned something that day. He also revealed what was more important than competition.

“I couldn’t believe I’d lost, but this day taught me an important lesson,” Budolin went on to say. “In any competitive pursuit, you must stay alert, stay focused till the last second of the match. This loss left me hungry, there was a sense of unfinished business. This motivated me to set new goals for the future.

“None of which is the reason why I choose this day to re-live this day. There was a reason why I was hurrying in that final match. That day was the due date for my wife IIona, to give birth to our first child. This knowledge inspired me and gave me strength, but it was on my mind, I was worried I would miss it. Fortunately, my girls waited for me. I never became World Champion that day but I became a father.”

Budolin would end up becoming a coach of Estonia’s national team in 2013. Despite all the success he has had and the medals he earned or lost, one thought always crosses his mind. That is especially true when he lost an important competition during the height of his power.

“The birth of my daughter more than made up for it,” said Budolin.

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