Rio 2016 Paralympic judo gold medallist Sandrine Martinet aims to bounce back against Soohee Choi after the South Korean newcomer knocked her out of world title contention in 2018.
Now 36, the French four-time Paralympian was beaten by Choi in the qualification round in Odivelas, Portugal, on her way to gold.
Martinet still secured bronze and, after a period of several injuries in the last couple of years, she now thinks she is nearing her best once again.
“During the last World Championships, I was surprised by a Korean that I didn’t know before, Soohee Choi. My preparation for this event was a bit complicated so I hope this year to be better prepared especially physically, and I am also gradually finding my judo after this great break.”
Her first appearance of the year will be at the Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, from 13-14 May, followed by the 2019 Goalball and Judo Qualification Tournament between 2 and 6 July.
Martinet will then go for the European podium in Genova, Italy, again in July ahead of the final Grand Prix in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in September.
Throughout all these the Frenchwoman will have one eye on Tokyo 2020.
“These competitions are very important to score points for the ranking list of the Tokyo Paralympic Games,” Martinet said. “It is the birthplace of judo. To win there would have a special flavour and would be a feat.”
After winning gold at Rio 2016 in the women’s up to 52kg, Martinet moved down to the up to 48kg. She now plans to stay there and wants to achieve success in the lower weight category in Tokyo.
“It [Rio 2016] was the medal that was missing from my list, the most important title for any athlete. It was a great joy and a great satisfaction and the reward of all my efforts. The best way to reward all those who helped me get this gold medal. My goal is to win gold in Tokyo to double it in two different categories.”
Worth the sacrifice
Martinet trains with her sighted teammates and is a role model for many female athletes around the world. She works as physiotherapist and is a mother to two children who are themselves future stars.
“I like to face the challenges. I like to surpass myself. It’s very hard to manage my work as a physiotherapist masseur and to be the mother of two high-level sports children. It takes a lot of sacrifices, but it also brings me a lot.”
As a result, Martinet finds a balance between all aspects of her life to reach the top and, she hopes, win even more medals.
“Finding the right and regular balance between my family, my work and judo as well as giving the maximum on each training are probably the key to my success.”
The 2019 Judo Grand Prix gets underway in Baku on 13 May and is expected to attract around 250 athletes from around the world.