Nordic Star Puumalainen ‘Optimistic’ About Judo In Finland

When it comes to disciplines to better oneself, judo has become the top sport to follow. All over the world, judo has made an impact on individuals, whether via staying in shape or representing social change. Even in areas where judo isn’t as prevalent, it is slowly making a difference.

In the Nordic region, Finland is still looking to enhance its grasp on the judo world. One of the top stars coming out of the area is Martti Puumalainen. He has represented Finland three times at the European Championships for under-18s, as well as at the European Youth Olympic Festivals and the World Championships for under-18s. Speaking with Judo Inside, Puumalainen discussed what judo is like in Finland at the moment.

“In Finland there are lots of clubs but the level of clubs varies a lot and the teaching can be completely different from one club to another,” Puumalainen stated. “In Finland most of the coaches are volunteers. I feel that this the biggest thing that need fixing if we want the level of competitive judo to rise.”

Beginning his journey at age six, Puumalainen has been able to accomplish some amazing things while representing his home country. He won a silver medal in the 2013 European Youth Festival in Utrecht, as well as the bronze during this year’s European U23 Championships. With a need for more awareness, Puumalainen is certain judo will grow within the area in due time.

“Overall I’m optimistic,” Puumalainen went on to say. “We have a good group of young judokas born between 1997 and 2000 who are showing great potential. I am very positive about the future right now.

“Over here we do have recreational judo and I’m always happy to see older people come for judo training and enjoying themselves playing this sport.”

At the age of 13, Puumalainen decided to start competing internationally. The youngest of all the judokas, Puumalainen would get hurt by going for the bigger opponents. He saw this as a chance to learn more to advance towards the top. Big results came for him, as he won silver in his first international contest in Estonia.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, several combat sports have been postponed. That includes the Nordic Judo Championships in Reykjavik, Iceland. The event will now take place on the weekend of September 12-13 instead of April 25-26. It could eventually be a true coming-out party for Puumalainen in front of family and friends.

While under lockdown, Puumalainen, who’s favorite move is the ippon-seoi-nage, has continued to train. He picked up cross-country skiing with his dad for cardio and has utilized kettlebells for strength. He is going to need it as he continues his climb from -100kg to +100kg. The move is something he believes is the right call for his career.

“I had to cut too much weight to make the -100kg category and I felt that this affected my performance in competitions,” Puumalainen stated. “Honestly speaking, it made me not enjoy judo anymore because I had to suffer too much just to make weight. I saw a lot of guys formerly in the -100kg division make a successful jump to +100kg, so I figured this is something I could do too. Today, I feel it’s the best decision I have ever made with regard to my judo.”

As he waits for the pandemic to slow down, Puumalainen is ultimately waiting for his chance to show the world what he can do. With Nordic pride, Puumalainen will continue to prepare for anything.

“The Europeans in November is my near-term goal,” Puumalainen said. “I don’t really know what to expect of that right now though. They might be postponed. I was a bit sad to see so many events postponed because I felt I was improving a lot recently but of course given the Covid-19 situation, there is no other choice but to postpone.

“In terms of Olympic qualifications, I’m far from having qualified but now with the postponement of the Games by one year, who knows… maybe I might have a chance. But my real target is the 2024 Olympics in Paris.”

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